Monday, 26 June 2017

Rodents the conqueror of nature

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au

If I had to use a word to describe the particular housing estate that the editor and I found ourselves in, I feel that that word would be: aspirational. Honestly from the street, you could smell the debt. The editor and I had parked the little three door dirt rat Suzuki vehicle in front of a huge two story house. That house was just one of many huge houses in an outer suburban housing estate. Of course if anyone chanced to miss the little dirt rat Suzuki, the neighbours certainly wouldn’t have failed to notice the bright yellow trailer.

Perhaps it would have helped matters if I’d dressed for the occasion. But I hadn't. Then again perhaps not, as even the dullest rats know that status is earned by not caring about status.

The editor and I sauntered up to the door and I pressed the buzzer so as to notify the residents of our presence. The door to the over-sized house opened and the owner took stock of the two people standing on his doorstep.

The very long dead Chinese master of strategy, Sun Tzu, recommends taking the initiative in uncertain circumstances. So I took the initiative and said in my most masculine and rural voice: “G’day mate. We’re here to pick up the water tank”.

The owner was clearly uncomfortable with the concept of selling his water tank because, rather than directly responding to me, he looked past me and about the streetscape as if taking in the scenario and checking to see whether the neighbours were observing this transaction. It was all very strange and uncomfortable.

He quickly recovered his wits and without introductions or even a handshake, he instructed the editor and I to meet him at the garage (of course we were not regarded as being worthy of a welcome into the house). The man quickly retreated into the house and the front door closed. The editor and I were unperturbed and we casually walked to the garage door and waited as instructed.

The whirring noise of a motor announced that garage door was soon to be raised to its full height. As the garage door was raised the editor and I could see the water tank that we had agreed to purchase from the man. The editor and I were happy with the water tank as it was in excellent condition and most importantly, very cheap. As the agreed $200 price changed hands, the man then said to us almost apologetically: “My wife wanted to sell the water tank”. I was acutely uncomfortable at the man’s shame at having to sell something and so the only reasonable reply that came to my lips was: “Right”. Whatever that means!

The editor and I decided without communicating the fact, to take charge of the situation, and as we moved to take physical possession of the water tank, the man said: “Do you need a hand with that?” Fortunately I’d already had time to assess the man’s capabilities in that regard: “Nah mate, we’re right from here. See ya round!” The man then closed the garage door and that was the last we saw of him. The water tank was easily manhandled and secured onto the bright yellow trailer and away we went with a second hand water tank for about a third the cost of a brand new water tank.

I was surprised that the man was so concerned about his loss of status at having to sell an unwanted item. Who cares about status? I certainly don’t and I’ve observed that rats, mice and other rodents are shrewd creatures because they couldn’t give a fig for status, and only tend to concern themselves with outcomes.

There is much truth in the saying “rat cunning”. This week I have been pondering the audaciousness of our rodent friends because they have managed to yet again to break into the supposedly rodent proof chicken enclosure. When that chicken enclosure was constructed two years ago, the editor and I went to extreme lengths to ensure that the rodents would be forever kept out. Steel and concrete were used in all sorts of cunning (or so we thought) ways in the construction. However, despite our best efforts, the rodents have outwitted us yet again and have simply burrowed a tunnel around a very deep concrete lined trench and after that feat, they then navigated under a very thick concrete slab. It is a very impressive feat.
Our rodent friends have yet again broken into the rodent proof chicken enclosure
It has been a while since I posted a photo of the happy chickens enjoying their deep litter mulch in the supposedly rodent proof enclosure. Anyway, here goes:
Happy chickens enjoying their deep litter mulch in the supposedly rodent proof enclosure
Neither the editor nor I have the slightest shame in selling any item here on the farm that serves no purpose. Everything is up for regular review (note to self: I must remember to keep working hard!). I imagined that we really didn’t have much on the farm that wasn’t being used. Anyway, sometimes things are so large and in front of your nose that you don’t notice them anymore. And such was the case with the old small wood heater in the cantina shed.

That small wood heater was taking up a huge amount of floor space and we’d only used it two or three times in about seven years. It was the sharp eyed editor who actually noticed the small wood heater and suggested removing and selling it.
A small wood heater was removed from the cantina shed
The flue (a triple layered steel chimney) which protruded through the roof of the cantina shed left a giant hole in the steel roof sheeting which had to be repaired. Fortunately we had a spare sheet of grey roof sheeting to hand and that was used to cover the hole in the roof. In the photo below observant readers will note that the replacement sheet is a slightly different colour than the original steel corrugated roof sheets. The strong UV sunlight over summer tends to fade colour paint on any steel corrugated roof sheets.
The roof of the cantina shed was repaired where the flue from the wood heater used to be
Of course, removing the flue for the wood heater also left a hole in the plaster inside the cantina shed ceiling.
Removing the flue for the wood heater also left a hole in the plaster inside the cantina shed
Observant readers will note in the photo above that just underneath the corrugated steel roof sheeting that there is a very thick fire blanket. This is a commercial product and not usually seen on domestic buildings. I was originally able to cover the entire roof of that cantina shed with a fire blanket because I had a left over roll of the stuff from the construction of the house, and that left over stuff was enough to do the entire roof of the cantina shed. It is also a very good insulating material. There is also a layer of wool insulation batts between the plaster and the underside of the fire blanket.

To repair the hole in the plaster I screwed in a small section of marine grade plywood.
To repair the hole in the plaster I screwed in a small section of marine grade plywood
Then a repair section of plaster was screwed onto the plywood and the joins were soon filled with plaster bog. Plaster bog as long term readers may know, hides a multitude of sins!
A repair section of plaster was screwed onto the plywood and the joins were soon filled with plaster bog
We also dug more holes this week with the hand auger. The holes will be used for treated pine fence posts so as to extend the tomato enclosure. Of course as the case may be, sometimes when digging holes you can hit a floating rock which has to be broken up, if you want any depth to that hole.
Sometimes you find rocks when digging post holes and they can be broken up
Soon all of the holes were dug. However we ran out of time to cement the treated pine posts into the holes and that will have to happen shortly.
Soon all of the holes required to extend the tomato enclosure were dug
Most of the fruit trees have now gone deciduous and they are all enjoying plenty of chilling hours. Chilling hours are defined as air temperatures below 7’C / 44.6’F. If fruit trees don’t get enough chilling hours, then they will happily grow, but they may not set fruit. And every fruit tree has different requirements as to chilling hours.It is also important to note that the chilling hours do not have to be consecutive.

I have observed that if some fruit trees have been put under considerable stress during the summer, they may not go deciduous. Walking around the orchard this evening I noticed an apple tree (in the next photo below) which had been severely punished by a very naughty wallaby. That apple tree has failed to go deciduous. Past experience has shown me that such fruit trees will generally not produce any fruit the following summer.
This apple tree has failed to go deciduous
Oh! The native birds here are very well fed and generally pretty happy with the conditions. I spotted this Kookaburra the other day. The laughing call of the Kookaburra is unmistakable and the bird in the next photo below was sitting on a kiwi fruit support keeping an eye out for any grubs or other insects.
I spotted this Kookaburra bird the other day
The mandarin trees are recovering from a wallaby attack a few years ago, but despite that, they have produced some very tasty fruit:
The mandarin trees are producing some very tasty fruit
Nothing beats the lemon trees for fruit at this time of year. Two of the lemon trees (Eureka and Meyer) are almost a decade old now and they are producing huge quantities of fruit. In previous years I have really struggled to know what to do with the huge glut of lemons (they were converted to lemon wine). In recent months I have been trading the lemons with a café in Melbourne for huge quantities of their used coffee grounds and the occasional coffee or lemon and coconut muffin. That is what I call rat cunning!
The lemon trees are producing vast quantities of fruit
I am using the huge supply of used coffee grounds as a fertiliser in the orchard. I simply throw the coffee grounds onto the ground in the orchard, and any trace of them disappears within two weeks.

Walking about the farm I notice that despite just having had the shortest day of the year this past week, there are still plenty of flowers to enjoy:
Tagasaste or Tree Lucerne are in flower
Some of the earlier rocket is producing flowers – and yummy leaves. I stagger the planting of that annual
Rosemary is still in flower and the blue flowers look great
This buddleia has escaped the vandalism of the wallabies and is producing great smelling flowers
The nicest flower of all is a Toothy flower
The temperature outside now at about 6.00pm is 6’C (43’F). So far this year there has been 400.2mm (15.8 inches) which is more than last week’s total of 397.0mm (15.6 inches).

50 comments:

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

I assume your temperature dropped to around the mid 60's Fahrenheit? Over summer I tend to get up early (not that I enjoy that!) and work until a late lunchtime of about 2pm. That seems to work for me. The heat kicks in here from about 2pm onwards. Has humidity increased with the small amount of rain. I find that makes work feel far hotter than it should otherwise be. Anyway, I tend to keep to the shade on summer afternoons.

It is a morbid topic, but the practicalities of the situation allude me... I am of the mindset that if you have live stock then sooner or later you will have dead stock. There doesn't seem to be any way around that particular situation.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

I haven't had time to read the blog yet, I just read the comment. I think that you mean 'elude' not 'allude'. Back later when I get a moment.

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, I thought that you would appreciate the link to that article for several reasons. I recall when that "World Fair" took place, but Brisbane (which is the capital of the state of Queensland) was too far for me to travel too. The drive from Melbourne to Brisbane would send me bonkers as it would take days and days. An aircraft would probably get a person there from here in about two hours. The buildings did look pretty nice didn't they? There is a Wikipedia page on those 2011 Queensland floods: 2011 Queensland floods. They were pretty epic and disastrous. There were implications for the insurance industry after that flood too and I felt the impacts of that even way down here.

Interesting. I hadn't heard of borax before. Boron is a common soil mineral which plants need in order to grow and may be in short supply. Did you know cardboard is a good source of boron? Anyway, the borax sounds as harmless as any other possibly toxic substance. I used a Pyrethrum spray. What can I say, we live on a poisoned planet. By the way, those pyrethrum plants grow prolifically here. We do spend a lot of our energy attempting to pretend to keep nature at bay. My gut feeling is that nature will win that particular encounter as we are part of nature too and we use poisons at our own peril. I'm putting some thoughts into why and how the ants got into the kitchen in the first place. I suspect but couldn't confirm it, that they climbed up the firewall of the house which is an impressive feat in and of itself. I crawled under the house last night and poked around but couldn't see where they were entering the building. Another mystery... Goodie... (note: sarcasm alert!)

Maybe about that song? No bells at all are tolling... Moving on. Oh, can you do that with the pumpkin vines? I guess that will stop the plant producing leaves and vines. Some people pluck leaves off tomato and potato plants too, but I have never noticed the difference and just don't have the time to fuss over the plants so much. Dunno, sometimes my methods here are on the slacker end of things, but whatever, if it produces the results who am I to argue with anyone else. The smaller variety of pumpkin should work well in your part of the world. Can you believe your summer solstice has just past by? Time flies. It is cold here! Brrr!

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

Go on, did you ever jump onto one of the rolling ladders whilst it was in motion? Someone must have tried that trick? :-)! Fun stuff. Hopefully the leg cast wasn't a result of a misfortune whilst riding one of the rolling ladders at high speeds? ;-)! Interestingly I have had one or two fractures, but have never been in a cast? People always say that the skin itches under the cast. Is that true?

Oh no, the great strawberry and rhubarb crisp disaster of 2017! Hehe! Mate, I have those days too when nothing goes right in the kitchen. Yup, when faced with that dilemma you have to kick back, relax and start again - on another day. Botched crisp sounds pretty tasty to me, it may lack visual appeal though. We have had no end of trouble over the past six or maybe twelve months with yoghurt. It has been driving me bananas and we reckon we've finally worked out that there were multiple factors of that process which were in error. It was quite spectacular to go from no problems for so long and then all of a sudden the white swan (I've never seen a white swan as they are all black down here) raised its head and said something or other about no more yoghurt for you dude. I'm going to do some trials on different yoghurt cultures. How did your crisp work today?

I was going to say something un-family friendly that sounds like the word "truck" and then I was going to add the word "yeah" to that. Down here nobody notices that little predicament which is why I get so many comments about why do we do things so manually here (or use electricity where we can). After Caltex appears to have closed down the refinery in New South Wales, we now only have a single refinery in the state that I live in (owned I believe by Swiss interests – not sure) and apparently we now import 91% of our oil. Well done us. I believe that most of our oil is shipped in from Singapore which has the reputation of being another low tax country, although I don't know any of the details of that arrangement so I can’t really comment other than hearsay. My understanding of the whole sorry story is that it appears to me that whatever keeps prices down seems to get the nod. I am uncomfortable with that story for all sorts of reasons. Oh well, like I said few if any people down here notice or care.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - The temp hit 99F (37.22), yesterday, about 4pm. By 9pm, it was down to about 70F (21.11C). Go marine onshore flow! Go sea breezes! We'll have at least a week of lower temps.

I'll bet your expedition into the upper crust set the curtains twitching :-). I'm surprised private security wasn't called for a look see :-). Hmmm. Here's an alternative narrative. The water tank was a symbol of the guys Delusions of Becoming a Gentleman Farmer. Due to the wife (Move to the Bush? Are you mad?!") he's had to let go of The Dream. But, taking in you lot, with dirt rat, he's thinking maybe she's saved him from something. Not that he'd every utter that out loud and will go to the grave saying, "She always held me back." Might make a good short story. :-).

Well, the crisp was more successful on the second go, but still leaves a lot to be desired. Runny and soupy. Even with the addition of more sugar and another tablespoon of corn starch. Boooo! An internet search reveals that to get it to stiffen up, you've got to add tapioca. Something none of the recipes I took a look at mentioned. Oh, well. None to bring home. Vanilla ice cream also covers a multitude of sins. Don't know if I'll try that again. When it comes to rhubarb, I think I'll stick to jam (with plenty of pectin) and putting it under the oat meal.

The pot luck was fun. I suspended any food foibles I have and went for the grilled meat (hot dogs and hamburgers) on soft white buns. Plenty of different home made salads. Hmmm. Mine was the only desert. Probably another reason for it's popularity. :-). I did have another agenda, in play. Brother Bob the Bachelor Farmer gave me a Christmas cactus that had been on the go since 1942. It's enormous. No room at the new place and if I leave it here, it will languish and die. Sooo ... one of the women who runs the half way house loves plants. She agreed to take it in. So, I gave it a good hair cut, added a layer of worm box soil and away it went. Another large item, out of here and to a good home.

More later, but I've got to jump. Nine boxes of books to haul to the new place. Will comment more, later. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

No worries. I'm planning to rewire the battery room tonight which I can only do in the evenings, so whilst I rather enjoy responding to comments, tonight it is a bit of a blessing for me to only have few comments to respond to.

Thanks for the correction too! Good pick up. Perhaps I was alluding to that morbid topic? But then again, probably not. Hope things settle down for you.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

That is a hot day and 70'F is still quite a warm and sleep disturbing temperature night. Enjoy your sea breezes! Day after day of hot weather can be quite tiring. There is a reason I do most of the infrastructure works during this time of year. Tonight with the sun now down below the horizon I'm planning to rewire the battery room. I can't do it during the day because I need all the solar energy I can grab. The winters here are getting gradually cloudier and I'm barely keeping ahead of the clouds. Oh well. This solar stuff is good, as I remark from time to time, don't bet the farm on it. You know if it ever gets rolled out in any scale (which I have serious doubts about due to the economic farce that it would be) then I reckon the investors will be mildly unhappy folks...

Ha! Twitching curtains! That's funny. Yeah, they probably spotted us from the street and went, oh my god what has the cat dragged in this time? Send them around to the servants entrance! Ouch, you know that is an ugly story that you have touched upon and I have it thrown at my from time to time. Someone who once remarked to me (who also said that they found the trees to be scary up this way) in a spiteful tone: "We can't all live on an organic farm, you know". There was real emotion injected into that outburst too. I have wondered about that and if it becomes too frequent where it has a chance of becoming a meme, I may have to keep a low profile - or perhaps engage with them somehow. Of course the problem is that one day in the future we all may be doing just that activity of living on an organic farm.

Runny and soupy crisp does not make for a picaresque chef! I'm genuinely surprised to read that the corn starch didn't fix that problem? I assume corn starch is corn flour? Maybe? Not sure really. Rhubarb jam is pretty tasty and yup, we add that to homemade toasted muesli. I shouldn't tell you this, but we make a pretty decent rhubarb wine. It is good stuff. Lead you not into temptation! :-)!

Tapioca is pretty old school. My grandmother used to make a very tasty sago pudding. It was very tasty, but looked like you were eating fish eggs, which is an odd sort of dessert. Still it did taste good.

Honestly, that grilled meat option sounds pretty tasty to me too. Yum. Well done with the plant donation. Very thoughtful. I hear you about nine boxes of books. I'll bet your book collection is like the iceberg that hit the titanic in that there is a lot more of it than those nine boxes! Hehe! I love books. I got the Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing in the mail earlier in the week and a lovely lady at the GW meetup handed me a copy of Chris Martensons book Prosper. So much reading, so little time.

Gotta bounce too as the battery room is calling my attention.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I am amazed at the discomfort of the water tank seller. He could always have told people that he gave it away to a good cause. My son certainly encounters horror at the sight of him as he could pass for a Romanian gipsy and drives a truck.

The class war is always with us but it is the aspiring who care the most.

Rodents ugh. I see that the traps in a greenhouse have caught yet another mouse this morning. The door to the greenhouse does not completely close.

My husband used to make wine and his rhubarb wine was the best of the lot.

Humidity was increased by the small amount of rain but we are still awaiting the promised storms.

Inge

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris!

What an audacious pair you and the editor are! Rats be d... - condemned! I hearby declare you and the editor to be King and Queen of the rats - now go forth and subdue ye your subjects. I would suggest with the help of Sir Poopy.

What an absolutely gorgeous flock of hens. Tip top work for their good health! They look like they could take on the rats themselves. I'm thinking that they just don't feel so inclined.

I've never seen anything on the level of the insulation that you have, even in just a cantina shed. Now, why did you originally put a wood stove in that shed?

From last week: No, our post hole digger is a hand tool, not gas or electric powered, thus my slight aversion to using it. I mostly prefer just to use a shovel.

I was so happy to see another kookaburra.

I agree - there is no flower like a Toothy flower - sweet boy. But let sleeping Toothies lie . . .

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - That sure is a colorful flock of birds, you have. A very healthy looking mob. And, it looks like you're well on your way to another seamless patching job. And, a bumper crop of citrus. Life looks good at Fern Glade Farm. But then, we all can't live on an organic farm. :-). What a comment. I detect a lot of jealousy and anger, there. We do what we can and should be happy with our lot. Don't like your lot? Do what you can to change it.

Borax. When I was a wee small lad, there was a show on the tv called "Death Valley Days." A collection of unrelated stories, usually with a western theme. Hosted by our future president, Mr. Reagan, flogging laundry soap. Little did we know ...

So, do you make your own pyrethrum spray? Hmmm. I wonder what a bit of the plant, down the rat holes would do? Probably, not much. After all this time of humankind battling rats, you think we'd come up with something better that current methods.

I'll have to look into that song. The music vid was a chubby girl in glasses, flitting about the landscape. In a bee costume. The image sticks with one :-).

I never took a run at the rolling ladders (that I can remember). Dignity of management, and all that. On one of my few trips to San Francisco, I did enjoy leaping on the famous cable cars, between stops. Landed in a French ladies, lap, once :-). Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. Corn starch is different from corn flour. In what way, I couldn't tell you. I've really no idea where tapioca comes from, either. Hmmm. A terrible lapse for an self styled cook :-). I'll have to look into both. Inquiring minds want to know.

I ended up moving down about 15 boxes, yesterday. I've got another 5 ready to go today. About 9 of those boxes were cook books. I probably have another two in todays lot. And, that's it for the cookbooks! Once I get them up on the shelves, I should do a count. Just for kicks. Not all cookbooks, strictly speaking. A clutch are on food history. There's probably around 10 that are on identifying different kinds of kitchen equipment or on collectible cook books.

Even though it's high summer, here, solar would have a tough go. There's cloud cover, into the afternoon. Quit nice for comfort, but not so great for solar. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Yup people can be funny creatures that's for sure. I can see how in the long distant past a fetish exerted such a strong influence over people. And I reckon marketing exploits that basic human program to sell people rubbish they don't want, because the fetish that people are buying and wearing exerts and influence over others opinions. I tend to communicate with people on their own terms however other people tend to be more fastidious and they can be easily startled at differences. I'm unsure that they would understand what an actual community is.

Oh yeah, I tend to feel sorry for very grasping and social climbing people. They do not understand that that game cannot be won.

You have good traps. I have to rely on the dogs.

Mmmm rhubarb wine. Yum! I'm always amazed at the sheer diversity of country wines that were (or are) produced in your country. It is an inspiration. Incidentally I chuck a bit of ginger into the rhubarb wine mix.

I hope the storms bring some rain. The past week or so has been very cloudy here, interestingly the cloud layer makes for warmer days.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Don't we have a lot of fun skirting around all of the more colourful side of the English language here. Total respect for your contribution to that cause! Poopy is definitely the muscle when it comes to killing rats. Alas the rats are very clever and they tend to keep to the nighttime hours and Poopy has to be kept out of the orchard or the other wildlife suffers. The rats know this...

Chickens are awesome if they get hold of a rat or mouse. They spend hours playing an involved game of chase, around and around the enclosure and that game breaks up the rodent. It is like a very dark version of pass the parcel! The chickens really enjoy their chicken enclosure.

Oh. Really? The walls in the house here have a 200mm cavity which is stuffed full of insulation. There is also another layer under the timber floor and in the ceiling cavity. I never believe claims that houses are so well built that they don't require heating or cooling, but this place doesn't need much.

That makes sense. The editor shares your dislike for that particular tool too! :-)!

Like a dog lying in a corner it'll bite you and never warn you. I doubt Toothy would be so ungentlemanly though.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Mate, I just finished re-wiring the battery room. Last night I worked on that job until about 10.30pm, so I was a bit frazzled by the time I got to bed. Hopefully all being well I should get four panels up tomorrow. We would really appreciate the extra energy that those new panels will provide. I reckon I've rewired the battery room about four times now over the years. It does get better though and in some ways it's not a bad way to go because incremental additions are easier on the pocket and mind than trying to achieve everything at once. I do try to communicate that to people wanting to live this way, but people see what they want to see. They also sometimes forget the sheer volume of work that has gone into this place, but I have a: work now and play later approach to these particular problems.

Yes, the chickens have been extraordinarily healthy since they moved to their new digs. One of them even recovered from a sickness a month or two back which is beyond my previous experiences in that sick birds usually die.

That's funny. I enjoyed the build up too! Far out, what concerned me about it is that it breaches social norms and of course these statements are more about them than their opinions of me. And I've often felt that they don't want to bring their own past decisions into question. But I could be wrong. I reckon Carl Jung might say that they were projecting the shadow? I could be wrong about that too! ;-)!

It is funny you mention that about not liking things as they are. I spotted this article in the paper today: Climate scientists reveal their fears for the future. As a general observation I noted that predominantly the interviewees said that they would consider moving rather than changing, but perhaps I am being too harsh in my judgement. Dunno.

Yes, little did we know! Haha! You get to enjoy some colourful politicians from time to time. Perhaps it spices things up a bit? Things are very dull down here and with all of the gridlock going on I wonder if they realise that people may be questioning what they actually get paid to do?

No, I should have made my own spray. I have to admit that I was in a bit of a hurry as the ants were everywhere and it was quite distressing.

Well, that video clip was definitely not Kate Bush in her video Wuthering Heights. A truly amazing voice.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

It is tough being the boss, as an interesting side note, I saw that in action last week and I was causally observing the goings on and felt sympathy for the individual. It is hard that one. Mind you, being second place, well, that does have undocumented benefits.

"Tapioca is a starch extracted from cassava root". All is now explained. Ah ha! I thought that sago and tapioca were one and the same. Apparently not. "Sago is a starch extracted from the spongy centre, or pith, of various tropical palm stems, especially that of Metroxylon sagu". Mind you sago pudding looks like fish eggs, but tastes very nice. There is a Singaporean restaurant in the big smoke with the charming name of: The Old Raffles Place. They make an excellent sago pudding. The pudding has a tasty syrup of Golden syrup. Too good, but not one for the diabetics.

9 boxes of cook books. A mate of mine collects cook books too. They live in an amazing home. I'm going to see whether I can include some photos of their place on the blog over the next few weeks. Polite people ask for permission in such circumstances. ;-)!

That is one of the things that few people want to discuss about solar. When it is cloudy, you get very little energy output. Looking out the window here it is very cloudy right now. What a surprise I'm adding more solar panels tomorrow. My advice to anyone now is, if in doubt add more solar panels, otherwise...

I have no idea how they have a functioning solar power system in places as far north as Germany because during the winter...

Cheers

Chris

Damo said...

Those aspirational estates are a bit depressing aren't they Chris? I too have noticed a similar attitude when purchasing second hand items, excuses are sheepishly made, often involving a nearby newer version of the same product. "It works perfectly, but I had to replace it because.....reasons".

Mrs Damo and I have started bird watching. This part of the world is covered with rivers, marshes and patches of native forest. Recording the bird species we see has made me pay a lot more attention and after 2 days have already noted several species (including the charming Masked Babbler) which I had never 'seen' before.

Work is neither great nor terrible. I enjoy feeling slightly sore at the days end (Surveying involves a lot of walking and hitting posts into the ground), but the long hours give me pause. There is all sorts of disturbing talk about "Saturdays". I am thinking that 5x12+ hour days plus ~6 hours Saturday won't leave me much time for anything else. There is also the house hunting difficulty. The highway project I am on is the largest regional infrastructure project in Australia. All those extra workers have pushed rents way up (modest house = 400-500 a week).

In short, Mrs Damo and I are re-evaluating if we stay. I am going to discuss my concerns and get a full picture of employer expectations in the next few days. The fact that we have not signed a lease yet, let alone unpacked from our year in Laos means it is really a small thing to say "thanks, but no thanks" if required. No debt (yes, yes I know) also helps. As an interesting note, I did some back of envelope calculations. A survey job in Tasmania that pays 50% less only leaves me $5K a year worse off, yet that would be a 38hr week (compared to 50+) and no Saturdays.

Part of me feels hypocritical and lazy complaining about house prices all the time, yet not wanting to work long hours. Dunno, it might be accurate.

Damo

Damo said...

/cont

@Coco
Thank you for the Hilary Mantel suggestion. I "loved" Wolf Hall and Bringing up the Bodies (did you watch the recent BBC adaptation?). Planning to start reading A Place of Greater Safety tonight, if it is half the book Wolf Hall was it will be great.

@Chris
RE: Project Management
Don't worry, I am not getting involved in any sort of uncomfortable questions. It is clear to me the project is structured in such a way as to ensure maximum profit skimming by many, many parties. The main contractor, Pacific Complete, claims they are so efficient and innovative they will deliver the 155km stretch of road 4 years quicker than the Government could do it. Of course, no one asks about the trade-offs made to reach that (mostly in the $5 billion price tag I think, maybe slower and cheaper is better?). I found out today that the stop-start lollipop guys get paid $40 an hour. Far out, I picked the wrong career!

Not just small mammals in Laos - we often saw large snakes sliced into segments on the meat table in small rural markets. One was thicker than my leg and was a very red meat.

I finished the Blue Planet. Great story - I think it would make a great movie. Much easier to adapt than Cugels Saga anyway, who lets face it, has a not very nice protagonist :-)

STAR TREK CAPTAINS LOG: Just watched the 2-parter with Spock and a dastardly Romulan plot. Good stuff, I will miss the show when I run out of episodes!

margfh said...

Hi Chris,

The rats must be very frustrating to you. That is one problem we seldom have. Your chickens certainly look healthy and content. I had three broody hens at once. Something in the water maybe. Fortunately there was an open pen so they were all moved over there for about a week. Worked well and they are happily back with the flock. I am happy to see the rooster out and about with the hens when I let them out in the evening to keep an eye on things. At first he hung out in their pen or just outside it. The chickens all love to run to the pig pen when I let them out. One has decided she prefers it there and has been bedding down with the pigs at night. The third pig that was sick seems to be doing much better - acting pig like and eating well.

Well done on all the wiring!! Doug is pretty handy but he's a bit leary of working with electricity.

Quite a few people around here have a wood burner in their shop for heat in the winter.

Last Friday we went out to dinner with our good friends that owned the retirement home where Michael used to live. They were like different people without that responsibility anymore. They had even put a small garden in their yard.

Only one appointment for Michael this week and it's right here in town.

We've had unusually cool weather this last week with more rain than normal but not so much that it's caused a problem - really quite pleasant.

Happy the internet or more likely our router is working today so I could comment.

Margaret

margfh said...

@Lew

You sure are making good progress with the move. I've been weeding through all my books in preparation for our eventual move asking myself if I'm really going to read some of them again.

Margaret

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Corn starch is made from the endosperm of the kernel of corn. Yeah, Tapioca comes from the cassava plant. Cassava is one of those plants where a bit of care needs to be used in processing one part of the plant or another, as in some situations it can be toxic. Like rhubarb leaves. I wonder how many people a year look at rhubarb leaves and think, "Boy, I bet they'd make great greens..." :-). Wikipedia has good entries on both. I looked up the Brisbane floods. Or, Queensland floods. Looks like both river and a bit of tidal flooding.

The Kookaburra reminded me that there was some Australian carnival glass produced in the 1920s and '30s. Besides the usual kangaroos, black swans and kiwi birds, I think there was a kookaburra. We don't see much of it here, and when a piece becomes available, it's pretty pricy. Search "Australian carnival glass." Images.

I'll see you're "rewiring the solar til 10:30" and raise you "packing boxes til midnight." :-). Another five ready to go, this morning. Since I sometimes compulsively count things, if I do 5 a day for 10 days ...

Last year I mixed up the borax for the ants. This year I just three ant traps at them. Sometimes, expediency is just ... expedient. :-). When I discovered them swarming around the kitchen sink, I just grabbed the vinegar spray bottle in desperation and that REALLY knocked them back. Much to my surprise.

Maybe, unlike us, Germany gets more "clear and cold?" Clear and cold would work for solar. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo, Margaret, and Lewis,

Thanks for the lovely comments. Unfortunately I am zonked this evening and I promise to reply in full tomorrow night when hopefully I have more energy.

Lewis - Hey mate! We put up the four extra solar panels today and pulled all of the wires through. Hopefully tomorrow morning I can then connect those wires up to the terminal fuse blocks and then switch it on and see what happens. Far out this job has been epic and it went from idea to completion in only a few weeks. Such is life here.

The stupid thing was that we installed the racking and put the solar panels up and ran the wires etc. and then noticed that there was space for one more solar panel on that racking. The battery charge controller can take another two solar panels, but alas the bank account is hurting... So maybe next year.

Gotta bounce.

Germany incidentally is at 51'N latitude so the sun would be lower in the sky than here over winter.

Cheers

Chris

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Margaret:

Isn't that funny - I am going through my books, too - like you and Lou (though we are not moving) - to see what I really might want in the future. It's either that or build new book shelves, just to keep stuff that I might not want later. I've never seriously gone through them before (after 25 years in the same house). I've sent one large box media mail to my sister, as she wants them (almost all dog books . . .). She had to leave a lot of hers behind when she moved from New York City to a small town in upstate New York.

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Damo - Masked Babbler = A bank robber who ... just .... can't .... shut .... up! :-)

@ Margaret - Yeah, books. :-). What to hold onto, what to donate, what can possibly be flogged later for bucks. Casting aside or sending to auction stuff for projects that will probably never come to fruition. Once the decision is made, it feel rather liberating :-). Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Zonked: ie: Zonker. Character from Doonesbury cartoon series :-).

Took down the five boxes yesterday, morning. Ran down another four, last night. Like Mt. Everest, because they were there. I have four boxes ready to go, this morning, plus the phony Christmas tree :-). I'm beginning to start thinking about a day off. Maybe just a day to eat bad food and watch bad DVDs?

I also took a look at my bank account, yesterday. Expenditures are coming to a screeching halt, for awhile. Still a pretty good prudent reserve, but want to keep it that way. :-). Lew

SLClaire said...

Hi Chris,

Congratulations on getting the new solar panels up and the rewiring done! I'll be interested to hear how it works out for you.

I started seeds for autumn and early winter a few days back (lettuce, kale, collards, mustard, and bok choy). Because it's so hot during the summer and harlequin bugs eat the cabbage-family crops during July, I find it works better to start all these seeds in a flat which I hold in the basement while the seeds sprout and put out their seed leaves. The basement is just the right temperature for rapid sprouting and growth. After the seed leaves appear, I'll set the flat in the shade on the front porch, where it is out of reach of predators and where the seeds can grow on under natural light. The seedlings take warmer temperatures than the sprouting seeds do. I expect to plant the seedlings in the first half of August. It'll still be hot then but it usually cools down a lot starting the first week or two in September.

Like Margaret, I seem to have little trouble with rats. That's good, because the voles make up for them by eating tuber crops. I'm noticing a lot of entrance holes to rodent burrows near the potato bed. If it's moles, shrews, or mice, that's not a problem since none of them eat tubers. If it's voles ... I suppose from their standpoint I'm running a vole resort. I won't know for a few weeks since the potatoes are still growing.

Mike is making good use of his hunting license and shooting practice. He's harvested four squirrels in the past week and they are in the freezer waiting to be cooked and eaten. Maybe I'll get some peaches, apples, and pears this year after all, along with Mike's harvest of squirrel meat.

@ Lew - you have a kinship with JMG since you were in the process of moving at about the same time. I see he and Sara are now in East Providence, RI. May your move go well and may you enjoy your new home!

Claire

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

I generally avoid aspirational estates - and that is a firm Fernglade Farm policy! Hehe. I was contemplating today whilst up a ladder wiring up the new solar panels as to what would happen to me if the War on Waste was won? Of course it will be eventually won regardless of anyone’s opinions one way or the other, but still in the meantime there is some good stuff to grab.

Oh yeah, you are in a part of this continent that is very... alive. Birds are pretty cool and if you observe them enough, you'll start to notice that they spend a lot of time mucking around. I recommend a book, if you're interested: Photographic field guide Birds of Australia by Jim Flegg. Some field guides contain paintings and the interpretation may vary from photographs. Dunno. I'd be interested to hear if you are seeing a good diversity of species.

Far out, it is cold here tonight. 2'C and it looks set to drop to maybe zero. Brr.

Do you get penalty rates for those disturbing Saturday's? That may soothe the savage beast a bit? Maybe? Mate, I work whenever and have no benefits so it all blends in my mind, but then I can take weekdays off when conditions are quiet and I enjoy that. It is hard to find a balance between too much and too little and I'm not sure where that lies.

Your thoughts about work are an astute observation. My take on that matter is that you are giving up life for work and what is that worth? I don't know and have gone overboard in the past which from hindsight was an error of judgement. Dunno, only you can answer that question.

No, not at all. I complain about house prices too. It is one outlet for the ever expanding money supply and it will not end well. Feel free to complain as it is simply wrong. The question gets back to the core: How much is your life worth and what do you want to do with the time that you have available to you. That is the toughest question that you could be faced with.

Haha! They look pretty happy don't they! :-)! I mean I see those sorts of stories all of the time and I have no idea what to make of them. What does it all mean? No worries anyway I was mildly concerned that you may have been asking uncomfortable questions when it would have been most adaptable to ask no questions at all.

I saw snakes bottled in some sort of arak. Not a drink I wanted to partake of.

Cugel was a delightful rogue, but you wouldn't want him involved in your life. I fondly recall the aggressive cows demanding beer! They seem to have their priorities correctly formulated. I enjoyed the Blue World too.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

You are very lucky not to be overwhelmed by rats. Occasionally when the chickens were in their rat infested chicken enclosure (there were about two dozen rats feasting upon the chicken feed way back then about two years ago) I felt as if I was watching a scene from an old Nosferatu film and the rats were swarming out of a 17th century sailing vessel and onto the wharf. It was horrific. Fortunately, a lack of easy feed has decimated the rat population here. They were even living in hollows in some of the bigger trees around the old chicken enclosure which would have displaced some of the local native wildlife.

Oh yeah, broody chickens can be a nuisance, but I've found that they give about three weeks to sitting on nothing and then they re-join the flock. The thing that worries me about broody chooks is that they lose condition. How are your coping on that front?

Haha! What a sight to behold. Chickens that run with pigs. I hope the sows don't roll over the hapless chicken? I really like pigs as they are so intelligent and they just loll around enjoying themselves and their noses are like giant suction cups which are forever up to mischief.

Fair enough too about the wiring. DC wiring is pretty simple as there are only two cables (positive and a negative). Mind you, I have occasionally zapped myself on the system, and you may not know it but it delivers in full sun in cool conditions 150 amps continuously which is more than what an Arc, MIG, or TIG welder would deliver to fuse metal, so I treat the system with the respect it deserves. A guy I know who is also off grid once remarked to me that he used his batteries for Arc welding when he was in a difficult situation!

If I were in your part of the world, I would do the same, but down here, it is just not necessary. There has been a huge amount of interest in the old wood heater and it has completely surprised me.

Good for them. And total respect for you for handling the situation with good grace. Lesser people would do, well, lesser! ;-)! Responsibilities get harder as the years go on, at least that is my take on matters.

I hope Michael's eyesight has improved?

Cool weather indeed! Hmmm. It is now 34'F outside. Tonight here is way cold. Brrr! Even Poopy may sleep inside tonight. Summer rain is pretty handy all things considered.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

I just had to go and put a woollen jumper on as I went outside to bring in some more firewood and it is near freezing outside. At least it is toasty warm inside the house. On the positive side, the stars are shining strongly in the dark clear winter night sky. The night sky here is very dark so you can see the band of the Milky Way and also the lesser blob that I believe is another galaxy (Andromeda, or perhaps the lesser Andromeda galaxy, I'm not really sure). Anyway, it is a long way away that's for sure.

Before lunch, I managed to get the new solar panels connected into the system and they produced more glorious electricity! Yay! It was really cloudy here today but the 30 odd panels produced a little bit more than 1 hours power at 6.4kWh which is more than enough to supply us and get some charge in the batteries. The trick to this stuff is having far more generating potential than you actually require so that it takes into account the very worst of the conditions, rather than the average conditions or best conditions. Most models used to calculate the expected outputs appear to me to be generally based on somewhere between the average conditions and the best conditions. But then they are used to flog product more than provide useful information. Unfortunately, people tend to use them as a basis for making decisions... Oh well. I can't explain it any other way.

Anyway, we got to use the electric oven this evening and that is a good thing!

A lot of plants become edible with certain types of processing. Take Warrigal Spinach for example. Repeated washing removes the oxalic acid which can be toxic in quantities. The immense observational science that went into those discoveries is a truly amazing feat of the human mind, don't you reckon?

Yeah, the king tides are taking their toll on that Eastern coast especially when the big tropical lows bring the tides in. I can't quite recall, but Sydney had a very big storm in the past year or so and there were photos of pools and buildings washed into the ocean. It was very instructive.

Speaking of which, next week I have some researcher dude coming up to interview me about risk and bushfires for a thesis project. It should be an interesting experience. I have troubles nowadays imagining living elsewhere and I do feel for you with your recent move.

Thanks for the Australian carnival glass Images, I'd never seen such a thing before and the detail on the art is amazing.

You win! At midnight I am sound asleep. I'm a finely tuned machine you know, and it is hard to function well without a proper eight to nine hours sleep per night. Hehe! Yeah, packing boxes to move is a chore, but then if it is not done things get worse. I hope your new digs are a good experience. As to your maths question: Hmm, 5 boxes per day for 10 days: Surely that is 50 boxes? ;-)! Bone head maths rules OK.

Well that is the thing isn't it? How much time can you spend on a particular activity when there are other activities demanding your attention. And you have to accept the consequences of taking a short cut even when you know that the consequences will be unfavourable. Sometimes no matter which way you look, the tide of events will be turned against you and then all the same, you have to navigate a way through. Dunno. Tough decisions.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

Ha! I doubt it very much about Germany getting cold and clear on average during winter. If it is snowing, then cold and clear is... elsewhere. Anyway, the solar panels would have to be tilted at 51 degrees from horizontal so that they faced the sun directly in order to achieve the highest output as the sun would be very low in the sky. Every single person that I know that has installed a sun tracker for their solar panels has had trouble with the mechanisms. Do they work? Yeah, but they are huge amounts of trouble. Nothing we have will replace: coal; oil; gas; or even nuclear. And I'm not schilling for any of those as I just try and make do as best as I can.

Maybe it was just me, but some of the humour in Doonesbury was lost on me. Perhaps it was ironic, but I didn’t find it to be particularly funny. Zonker has a cool goatee though. You don't see goatees around much these days. I used to grow one, but after a few years the tech folk began sporting them too and so I went for the full, but cropped, beard.

Ah, the challenge of Mt Everest! Well done with all of the moving and packing. A day off? Maybe so. I heard a discussion on the radio last week about a doctor who pulled a sickie for mental health reasons and there was a lot of scorn heaped upon the individual for apparently not being able to tough it out. Very new doctors apparently have a higher than average suicide rate. I always factor days off into the business of living here. I just don't advertise it much, or in advance, for obvious reasons. It is an absolute necessity in life to take time out. As a society, I feel that we work too hard, for too little return (well that may vary, but generally I feel that the costs are high). Bad food and even badder DVD's. That's cool! ;-)! Did you watch any good food films?

Holding a reserve is a sound strategy and one that I also pursue. It is a very old school technique which is frowned upon in certain quarters. Something, something, or some rubbish story about not making active decisions about using your money… But too bad, so sad for them, because it simply works. As a general observation, I have long since felt that humans are not so good at budgeting, despite the rhetoric.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

Younger daughter, partner and grandson arrive here from Australia tomorrow for two weeks. This will be wonderful but will curtail my time.

Thank goodness it has stopped raining and is starting to warm up again.

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

Thank you and living with off grid solar is an epic decision with far reaching consequences for the way that a person lives their life. I finished the wiring for the four new solar panels this morning and flicked the switch at about lunchtime and today despite the cloudy winter conditions, all of the solar panels brought in 6.4kWh for the day which is more than enough. Incidentally the 30 solar panels average about 190W each (some are 180W and others are 200W) so that equates to about 5.7kW of potential output in perfect conditions. As the system has expanded over time, I have had to reconsider every single aspect of the system and also apply everything I've learned. It has been an interesting experience.

Incidentally, as the system stands now I can still add on 2 additional 200W solar panels, although in reality I only have the physical space for 1 additional panel. Roof space here is at a premium as it collects heat (solar hot water), electricity (solar PV), and water (collected into the water tanks).

Well done with the autumn crop seeds (as a comparison those are my winter crops). Harlequin bugs can be a nuisance here too, but they generally get eaten by the fairy wrens before they cause too much damage. At some points in the summer, they do seem to be on a lot of the surfaces of the veranda. Your system for germinating seeds is a good one and you are lucky to enjoy the heat being at a perfect temperature in that space. Do I recall that you constructed an enclosed veranda at some point in the past? Is that working well? I reckon it would be perfect for growing seedlings.

Oh my, please keep those voles to yourself. To be honest, they do look a lot like rats and mice. But to take all of your root crops would be hard. I assume that includes potatoes and beets as well? Ouch. Yes, I'm pretty certain the voles would think that way about your garden. Grow it and they will come seems to be the order of the day. I was gobsmacked to see just how much chicken feed two dozen rats could consume. And they used to just glare at me as if I was a major inconvenience to their lives, which I probably was.

Go Mike. Nice work. How old are your peach and apple trees? I find that they really need at least ten years before they produce a good quantity of fruit, but there are issues here with soil and lack of watering during summer (which can make a huge difference).

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Oh!!! Just before I forget. Yesterday when I was installing the racking for the solar panels I went to screw a huge bolt (the first one supplied with the racking) into the roof of the shed and after being screwed into the roof batten, the head of the bolt sheared clean off the shaft of the bolt. I chucked the rest of the bolts out and went back to my usual bolts supply. I could not believe it. Do they not realise that we occasionally get tornadoes here? And I noticed the aluminium extrusions used for the racking had one tiny little bit less metal than the previous racking so they didn't meet up as well. Fortunately I am able to modify the joiner and ensured a solid connection between the two similar but slightly different racking pieces. No doubt it saved a few cents in the manufacturing process to remove that tiny bit of metal along the extrusion...

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Claire - Thanks for the JMG sighting! I was beginning to think, perhaps, he was just enjoying not keeping up with a weekly blog, so much, that he was having a hard time getting back to it. But a move. Well, that explains a lot. Can you imagine the books he has to move? Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Researcher Dude ought to be interesting. At least, more interesting than the usual day tripper with romantic delusions about "Country Life." :-). He ought to read "Fire Monks." Brush fires, from the inside. My friends daughter who works for the Forest Service down in Arizona, has been on the hop. Had to take a mandatory two days off, after 14 days on and 14-16 hour days. As near as I can figure, she's the connection between the Forest Service and media. And, people impacted or potentially impacted by fires. Kind of an all around communication person?

Australian Carnival Glass. Keep an eye out at boot sales and house clearances. If you find it, and it's flawless and for pennies, grab it. If you want to get an idea of prices realized, go to EBay, US. Search "Australian Carnival Glass" under the "Glass and Pottery" classification. Click on the box at left ... I think it's something like "Items Sold." Then you get an idea of what the stuff really goes for. Pattern, form and color of glass = price realized.

All that extra power. Do something silly. Like turn on a hair dryer :-). Yes, I've noticed when manufacturers shave a bit off here and there. You hardly notice, but over time and "units", I'm sure it all adds up and impacts the bottom line. The quality of screws, and such, really began to go downhill as ... well, the story I heard was that lots of scrap was recycled into screws in little backyard smelter operations. Quality varies ... widely.

A half day off. Not hauling too much to the new place, but will pack more, this afternoon. And, prepare two bookcases, the dresser case and a small curio cabinet for transport. Who knows? Maybe I'll haul some more boxes down, this evening. I emptied out eight boxes, last night, and found places for all the stuff. Mostly kitchen stuff and tat. So it goes. Lew

Damo said...

Side question for anyone out there, I have access to a lot of lemon hybrids, they are called "lemonades", but basically look like lemons. Also, someone can give me a big bag of blood oranges. Can anyone recommend a proven wine recipe or two? Was going to get a few carboys/demijohns today and put some sort of brew on but have not done fruit wines before...

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

No worries. I hope they have a very pleasant stay. We all enjoy our patterns and small daily rituals.

The sun was glorious here today. Better than I can recall for weeks and weeks. Mind you overnight the air temperature got down to -1'C / 30'F which is rather cold, and about as cold as it gets here. Even this afternoon, despite the clear blue skies, there were little patches of frozen grass all day long. Brr! Still it is nice to have plenty of firewood and the insides of the house are toasty warm.

I'm vicariously enjoying your descriptions of summer. :-)!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, I'm rather looking forward to opening a dialogue on this important subject. We'll see what happens, but apparently as part of the interview process I'm entitled to receive a copy of the final findings of the thesis. I wouldn't participate without that guarantee. Mate I get contacted by people wanting to satisfy their curiosity, whilst taking up my scarce free time, and I wonder what the point of all of that actually is. Their demands exceed my abilities to supply. And it never occurs to them to offer something in return for a visit. There is just this assumed thing that my time is free. If you on the other hand declared a desire to visit and have a guided tour of the place, then you have earned that, no dramas at all. But other people whom I don't know and am never going to hear from again, well that is all sort of strange and it defies common sense.

On the other hand, you are a bad influence (that is a compliment by the way) as a copy of Fire Monks is now working its way to me in this remote corner of the planet. Thanks for the reminder! I'm sure it will be a worthy read.

Yup, communication with the affected community is an important role in such a situation. My thinking on that matter is that if the government wants to take charge of that particular situation, then the organisation cannot then pick and choose which parts of the situation it takes charge of without communicating that message. You can't have it both ways. The authorities here come under fire for locking locals out of an area after a fire because of the need to search for bodies. It is a highly emotional situation.

Thanks for the advice on the tat items. I have never seen them for sale, but also I haven't been looking for them, so who knows what I've missed.

All for a few dollars more. That sounds a bit like a Clint Eastwood film don’t you reckon? Seriously though, I have seen this solar stuff close up over the past decade and to my mind and this is just an opinion, it all looks a little less robust with each passing year. I discovered the heads shearing off bolts over a decade ago when I was constructing a timber staircase, and to be honest I was completely shocked. Nowadays, I just chuck the batch out into the metal recycling crate (which I have to take down to the tip for recycling every six months or so). Most bolts are fit for purpose, but that one the other day was a real surprise. Solar panels are like giant sails mounted onto a roof (which may or may not be designed to bear that wind load) and they absolutely 100% must be anchored down. Your story on the situation makes a lot of sense.

Your talk of moving boxes and clearing out things has made me take a cold hard look at some stuff here over the past few days - and then put them up for sale. I thought we kept a pretty clean ship, but here and there items were lurking... Like gremlins really. They make for unpleasant company! Did you find anything interesting in your kitchen tat?

The skies remained clear overnight and the temperature got as low as -1'C / 30'F which is as cold as it gets here. Brrr! There was even a lot of frost about the place and in sheltered spots it hung around all day long. Anyway, the upside of that was that the skies today were gloriously clear and blue and the sun shone weakly. The 30 x solar panels produced 9.756kWh today which put a good amount of charge back into the batteries. Yay!

At least it was warmer here overnight than the nation’s capital of Canberra: Canberra shivers through -8.7C morning on first day of energy price hike. I read somewhere or other that their electricity prices were apparently being raised by 20% today.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

Yes, I see citrus wine in your future. We use 5L demijohns because anything more gets too heavy when full, but other people like bigger demijohns.

Here goes. Juice the lot. Place in a pot. Add 1kg of sugar (I usually use raw sugar). Add a teaspoon of yeast food, but honey will serve just as well. Warm the pot on the stove until the whole thing is mixed together. Maybe add in some water. When cool, pour into the demijohn. Add water so that it is topped up. Add an amount of champagne yeast, but even bread yeast will work. Bang on an airlock. Leave somewhere warm but out of the direct sun. The suns UV tends to kill off the yeast.

After a day or two depending on how warm it is, you may need to clean the gunk out of the top of the demijohn and airlock. I use a long knife and a wettex to clean it out. Bang the airlock back on again. It may happen only once or twice then it just bubbles along.

It should be drinkable after the bubbles stop forming. However the long you leave the mix, the smoother the taste. 12 months or more is optimal, but 2 months is OK at a pinch.

Hopefully that works for you?

Cheers

Chris

Damo said...

Thanks for the top tips Chris! I bought 2x 5 litre demijohns today ($10 each from a lovely general store / cafe / homebrew shop on the outskirts of Grafton). I will do one lemon/lemonade wine and the second can be blood orange/mandarin (pending my free donated fruit on Monday :-)

What sort of juice to water ratio do you normally aim for? I would imagine that for lemons particularly, going for 100% is probably not the best idea :-) Do you add any sort of seasoning in some batches, or just go with juice, sugar and yeast? My attempts with honey mead a few years back were pretty good, but took a solid 18 months to be smooth.

Kicking back with a beer tonight and checking out that war on waste show. Far out, those piles of rejected bananas were a bit depressing weren't they? I sort of don't blame the supermarkets though (as much as I hate Coles/Woolies) as most people still choose to shop there despite knowing how bad they are for suppliers etc etc. I can see a near future scenario where the 'imperfect' fruit/vege selections become more popular as economic realities hit home.

Damo

margfh said...

Hi Chris,
That number of rats in one place is the stuff of nightmares. Have you ever tried rat traps? We use them for chipmunks when they get out of hand. They aren't a problem in the coop but rather tunnel under flower beds and concrete eventually damaging the concrete. When we get a lot of the flower bed next to the house the dogs go nuts and Leo especially digs everything up including the drain tile for the gutter in his quest to get to them. They also take up residence in the wood pile and the dogs spend endless hours trying to get to them often knocking down the wood pile. Two summers ago we trapped almost 40. Some would think this is cruel and admittedly chipmunks are awfully cute but I think in most cases the trap kills them immediately. We bait it with a little peanut butter with sunflower seeds on top.

Like Claire we also have a lot of voles but the cats and Salve do a good job taking care of them so they haven't been an issue.

Michael's eyesight has improved dramatically. Thank you for asking. There is a pretty large staff at his residence and he's reportedly been going around reading all their name tags which he wasn't able to do before - and this is with only one eye fixed. I have two weeks with no appointments before round two begins.

I mentioned that it had been wet here but not so bad that it was a problem. Well I spoke too soon as that night we had over 2 inches of rain and other places near us had quite a bit more. Chicago and south had very little so it can vary quite a bit during thunderstorms. The storms were quite bad with several tornadoes sighted but none touched down. The farm fields have standing water again and the frogs are back singing.

Must be nice to have a warm home when it's so cold outside and enough electricity.

Today I'm off to Chicago to have a birthday celebration for my oldest daughter without her spouse or children. Youngest daughter, aunt and sister will join us. We are going to a bird sanctuary on Lake Michigan and then lunch and will return to younger daughter's apartment. I'll stay overnight at my aunt's who lives downtown so it's a much needed break for me. As it's the weekend before the 4th of July holiday the train will be packed but we are the first stop so I'll get a good seat.

Margaret

Damo said...

RE: Work update

Yeah Chris, when I worked for myself it was a 6 day week as well, and at that time I was fine with it, after all I was the boss!

The number 3 bossman came up from Port Macquarie the other day so I pulled him aside to voice my concerns on a few things. The conversation was pretty relaxed and I was very amicable I can assure you. In short however, I expressed a strong desire to refrain from working any Saturdays, 50 hours a week of physical labour was enough for me thank you and I needed my weekends for brewing, boat restoring and other lifestyle pursuits.

He tried to deflect and generalise, but eventually I pinned him down and made it clear that regardless of head office desires, my availability did not extend beyond 1 saturday a month. I wanted to voice this limit now, so they would not be surprised in 6 weeks time at a crucial juncture.

To provide some context, my employers could lose the 18 month contract if they cannot provide adequate manpower. Surveyors are thin on the ground and they are hiring anyone with a pulse and surveying qualification.

I think he took it well, I did (politely) say that I was willing to move on if this limit was not acceptable to them. A day later, the number 2 boss sent a group email explaining that unfortunately they expected all staff to work saturdays on a currently unknown basis going forward, however they could offer 1.5x pay loading. I suspect I will need to reiterate my position next week. I can report however that I am enjoying the work more, it is a nice feeling coming home moderately sore from a day of physical work (to be clear, it is light physical work - mostly hiking through rough terrain and mud with 10kg of gear).

Hopefully it works out, I think it will be good here. But I have never chosen the money/career option in the past and have no regrets so I see no need to start now :p It was interesting to see my other co-workers responses though. To a man and woman they all hated the idea of working on Saturdays and talked about how crap it would make things, but I was the only one to tell management it was a line in the sand. Afterwards, a few even thanked me for saying something. I found it strange since everyone could find work with another contractor in days.

Damo

margfh said...

@Lew

I wondered about JMG's book collection as well when I read that he and Sara had moved to an apartment.

@Inge

Hope you have a good visit. I imagine they don't come too often. When my daughter and granddaughters come for a visit - and that's only for a couple days normal life mostly grinds to a halt. My daughter always treated it a bit like a mini vacation for herself sleeping in late and lounging around. Now that the twins are older they mostly take care of themselves at least. It's fun but also nice when they leave haha.

Margaret

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

I've got my writing hat on so I have to be brief, but will respond tomorrow night. I'm enjoying a stubbie of dessert stout with the amusing name of Golden Stout Time and yeah, it really does taste like the ice cream! You wouldn't think that it was possible but progress in beer technologies is bravely going where no beer has gone before!

1kg of sugar is the most important bit of the recipe as the sugar content defines the alcohol content (and the yeast variety and time to ferment also affects the outcome). However, you are unlikely to be able to press 5L of citrus juice, although this is not a personal challenge! So it gets watered down anyway. The flavour is to your taste, but by and large country wines are sugar wines. Grape wines get the sugar from the grapes (which are high in sugar). Mead uses honey which is 80% sugar. Is that cool?

Gotta bounce, will talk later.

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

Thanks for the comment, but I'm writing the next blog right now so will be unable to reply tonight and promise to reply tomorrow night.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Cliff Mass has an interesting post on lenticular clouds, along with some fantastic pictures. It's the post on UFOs :-).

I quit liked "Fire Monks". I passed it along to my friend's daughter, but don't know if she got around to reading it. If you Google "Cheyenne Warner, Goodwin Fire" you can see some of what she does. Also, some pretty spectacular footage of the fire.

Well, to quote that old saw, "Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees." :-). Hmm. Kitchen tat. I'm agonizing right now over a bread box. To keep or go. It takes up a lot of space. Tin / zinc with an old blueberry design on the outside. But, impossible to clean. Every time I clean it, a bit more of the paint comes off. And, I get a bit more unhappy with it. I really think I should send it to auction, now, when it still has some appeal. And before I'm totally dissatisfied with it. We'll see.

You mentioned twice that -1C was "as cold as it gets here." Is that a sympathetic magic incantation :-). Wishful thinking? More like, as cold as it gets here, so far. Your about in the snow range. At least, here.

I'm falling down on the job. Only 4 boxes to take to The Home, today. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

The photos of those lenticular clouds were amazing. Thanks for the heads up as I enjoyed the stories too. Interestingly Cliff Mass studied with Carl Sagan who was quoted as saying that intelligent life was very likely all over the Universe, but that interstellar travel was verging on the impossible. It would certainly consume a whole lot of energy wouldn't it?

The communication is excellent - as it should be in such a circumstance - but oh my goodness that is some dry forest and the terrain looked quite hilly and inaccessible. Ouch. Not optimal conditions. I'm looking forward to reading the book on the fire monks as any information at all is important, but you never know which bit it will be.

I'm pretty tired tonight as the editor and I spent the day helping some mates plant over 150 tree lucerne (tagasaste) trees. My mates have cattle, pigs, ducks, and chickens and I took the camera over - and asked permission nicely - and may write up what we did on the blog following tomorrows blog (which is already mostly written). It may be titled: Notes from an Impressive Shed. If the photos don't turn out as they were taken late in the day - and it was an epic day of work - I'll just add some of the photos to that weeks blog.

That is funny about not seeing the forest for the trees, if only because people can't or won't think in terms of systems which is a real pest. Oh well, make do and hope for the best seems the order of the day! I could do better on that front though, but noses would be put out of joint and then there would be unpleasant discussions.

I thought so about the kitchen tat. I mean how do you pare this stuff down? Ouch, given the metal used in the construction, that paint may possibly contain lead so you may not want the flakes of paint floating around. Yes, auction seems to be the way to go. We're having great success with the auction of unused stuff down here. Tidying things up is cathartic for the soul - apparently so anyway. It will help reduce the pain of the bank from the recent solar upgrade. Ouch. It hurts!

Wow. Well, I hadn't thought about that aspect of the incantation. Yes, things could get worse. Years and years ago the old timers used to make claims that the temperatures in some parts of the mountain range got as low as -10'C which of course would kill off my citrus trees. The seedling avocado trees strangely enough were in a no frost zone. Clearly they know what they are doing? July is meant to be colder here than June...

4 boxes is still a respectable move. Take your time I reckon and ensure that the process is enjoyable.

Did Cliff Mass write that you are due for an eclipse?

Cheers

Chris



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

I reckon the correct word to use to describe the rats would be: swarming. It was horrid to see and they all just glared at me with cunning rodent intelligence. And they used to outwit me - and possibly still are, but I have made it very hard for them to build up such a population again. I'm genuinely fortunate that the rats did not attract seriously deadly snakes.

Yes, I have tried rat traps and they simply ignored them because the chicken feed was easier and less dangerous for them. That is a huge population of chipmunks. You know, I'm reasonably pragmatic about things such as that and if you live in a rural area, there are times when some populations just need reducing. If for example I let the flower beds do want they want (and I do within reason), they'd take over the place, so of course I hack them back from time to time. Part of being a steward of land means monitoring different populations.

Voles sound like a nightmare and fortunately other than wombats, foxes and echidnas nothing much burrows into the ground. Oh, maybe the rats and mice dig tunnels to live in. Actually no that I think about it, there seems to be a lot of digging going on.

That is really good news for Michael and he must be very happy with the surgery.

Oh no! 2 inches of rain is quite a lot in a short period of time. On the other hand the frogs would be happy and it isn't quite possible to drive tractors in paddocks with standing water...

It is nice. I took a few photos showing just how warm too. The extra electricity is a real bonus.

Oh yeah, happy 4th and I hope that you and your family have a lovely time.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I made a mistake, my daughter doesn't come until Monday. It has given me some extra time to clean up a bit!

@ Margaret
My sentiments exactly. They come about every 2 years. They used to semi camp but daughter stopped doing this last time and now stays in a chalet that a neighbour rents out in the summer. I have no room for another person to sleep in my abode (thank goodness).

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

$10 each is a proper score (did that include the rubber bung and airlock?) The older demijohns also use thicker glass and so they are worth keeping an eye out for. I sometimes wonder about the newer demijohns on that score and whilst I haven't broken one yet, it is only a matter of time. The old timers used to use ceramic ones and Bendigo pottery down this way used to produce them. Good call about separating the mixes. :-)!

Well, I mix the fruit juice into the sugar and heat. Then I add water to that amount just so that it doesn't turn into jam. Pour that into the 5L demijohn when it is cool and maybe add 2.5L of water (I've never really thought to measure it). I wouldn't worry too much about getting the mix right as long as you use the 1kg of sugar and try to get some champagne yeast. The 1kg of sugar determines the final taste and alcohol content. More will produce a sweeter wine (which I don't prefer) and less will produce a drier wine, but I've found 1kg is a good compromise.

Seasoning: Ginger. Vanilla beans. Those two come to mind. We're going to attempt to make a vanilla flavoured wine and boldly go where no country wine maker has gone before. :-)!

Mead can take 18 months and you have to be careful that your honey supplier hasn't mixed a sugar syrup into the honey to pad it out. I only buy honey from three reliable sources as I know that they don't do this practice. The resulting mead from such a dodgy mix is not good (headache inducing sweetness). Mead can be quite rough until it is drinkable and the pollen and nectar the bees are collecting can change the flavour of the mead - diverse is better tasting. Sugar wine on the other hand becomes more drinkable in a shorter period of time.

What can I say: Waste is wasted income. More fool them. The bananas were not good and I do hope they composted the waste? I believe there is a fungal disease affecting bananas anyway so the problem will probably go away. The plants must be heavy feeders to grow that fast and produce hands that large. Markets and farm gates sell the less than perfect looking specimens and I'll let you in on a little secret. The produce is better as it hasn't travelled as far and hasn't been stored for as long.

Being the boss is nice and that also means taking days off when there is no work which I quite enjoy.

It is possible to do a 50 hour week of physical labour for a few weeks, but then over the long run it is not sustainable. Mental stress has the same limitations. My but we work hard for our graft these days. And the retirement age is now 70. Can you imagine being in your late 60's as a brick layer and being asked to lay 400 bricks per day, 5 days per week, 48 weeks per year? I can't actually imagine what that would be like, but I reckon it would be unpleasant. Yes, go early and go hard as such things are hard to negotiate down the track.

Best you keep that pulse ticking along and don't become a zombie. Well, you have some bargaining power, use it.

Well debt and fear for families tends to make people keep their mouths shut. They have commitments and that ties them down. Unfortunately they do not see that by working those Saturdays they get to have their commitments but they don't get to enjoy them. It is a predicament. You know three decades decades ago when I was a young teenager, nobody worked Saturday afternoons or Sundays (except maybe some essential services). Just sayin that that is what decline looks like.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - I looked up the article on Canberra and it's cold snap. Parts were a bit laughable. "Canberrans took to social media to express their displeasure." Well, that and a buck might get them a cup of coffee :-). There seemed to be a bit of mixed messages about heating with wood in the article. "If you use a wood heater to stay warm, you are urged to switch to a more sustainable heating method." What's more sustainable than a well managed forest? Anyway. The article seemed to be sending mixed signals on wood and I'd say the reporter has never brushed up against serious wood heat. I must say that here, if the atmospheric conditions are right, they semi-ban wood heat use due to air pollution. Not that I've ever heard of it being enforced.

Here we plant grasses to feed our animals and hay, there you plant trees :-). The weather conditions have been just about perfect for hay, and as I travel around, it seems like everyone with a lose field is bailing up hay.

Sorting through the kitchen tat isn't so bad. Generally, I ask myself if I use an item. If I've used an item in the last year (which covers special holiday stuff). The "decor" is a bit of a problem, but there's really not all that much of it. And what there is, I'm letting go of some. Some things I have an emotional attachment to, some stuff, not.

Oh, yes. Eclipse - o - mania is gearing up, here. We haven't had a good banger of a total solar eclipse since the late 1970s. What I remember most is short periods where snake like shadows crawl along the ground and up the sides of buildings. Speaking of spectacle, the 4th is coming up. I asked the ladies at The Home, and they said they have quit a good view of fireworks. But, as it's my last 4th here, I may just watch the stuff I can see from Portland, low on the horizon.

I got a BBC / Acorn media catalogue the other day. You remember we talked about the "house" series. Edwardian House, Colonial House, 1940s House, etc.. Where they drop a bunch of people into living like whatever time period for a length of time. Well, they must be scraping the bottom of the barrel. The newest offering is "Victorian Slum House." Ought to be interesting, but, somehow just seems a bit ... "wrong." Lew