Monday, 3 November 2014

Access all areas

It’s been proven true here time and time again, that if you can’t get to a particular area on the farm, that area simply gets overlooked. Access to an area becomes all important and access can mean either a path or a set of stairs into an area.

It was only less than a year ago that I built a concrete staircase and paths leading down into the bee food (and Chris food too!) mixed flower, herb and vegetable garden. This is what it looks like today:

Bee garden - mixed flowers, herbs and vegetables
 Before the stairs and paths were built, that bee garden looked pretty much like this area:

New staircase below the cantina
It is a reasonably unloved area of the farm and that area below the cantina shed supported more grass than any useful plants. As you can see in the photo though, over the past few days I’ve now built 4 concrete stairs (out of a total of 11 stairs). Hopefully in another 12 months’ time that area will look as good as the mixed flower, herb and vegetable garden does today!

If anyone is wondering how to go about building concrete stairs, the process is very easy. At the bottom of the photo you’ll note the timber formwork that is used as a guide. Formwork is the fancy name for the timber that gives both the width and height of the stairs. I place the formwork at the starting point for the staircase, ensure that it is level both side to side and then front to back and then simply fill the void with cement and rocks. The surface of the cement can be lightly moistened and worked with a trowel so that it produces a completely flat surface. A couple of hours later, the stair is solid and you can then start work on the next stair. During summer, I can build at least three to four stairs per day, but at this cooler point in the year, I’m limited to two stairs per day as the concrete just doesn’t set fast enough for more than that.

It hasn’t all been about stairs this week though. For the past couple of months, I’ve been digging a flat site – by hand – out of the side of the mountain. This week, however marked the beginning of the first shed to be built on that flat excavated site.

Here is what it looks like today:

New shed under construction
Pretty funky huh? The shed looks like a space pod has settled on the ground here at the farm!

I’m a great believer in using second hand or recycled materials in construction so all of the materials (other than the cement mixture) in the shed are sourced from second hand or down-graded materials. I’m currently estimating that the entire shed will cost only a little bit more than about AU$1,000.

Most new small sheds these days are built out of sheet steel and they have few if any structural beams. I’ve factored in the very real risk of bushfires here and decided to make the shed using structural galvanised steel with a very thick cladding of old school corrugated iron sheets (which I picked up a few weeks ago at the local tip).

Observant readers of this blog will note that there is a window already installed in the shed. I sourced that window second hand and it is double glazed with two layers of 5mm (0.2 inch) toughened glass. Strong stuff indeed! The funny thing is that there is not much of a market for second hand windows as people generally build windows to fit a design, whereas I’m working backwards and fitting the window I have sourced into the design. Getting back to the bushfire threat though, once the cladding is installed on the shed (in a future week) I have a stainless steel mesh covering to place over that window to assist it possibly surviving a future bushfire.

A lot of tools used to construct the shed are hand tools and one of my favourite's is the trusty old hand auger. That tool – with a bit of human assistance – will easily dig a 300mm (1 foot) hole into clay. It can then bring the clay back up to the surface, thus cleaning the hole at the same time. I’ve had this hand auger for many years now and it can easily dig a two foot deep hole in about 15 minutes.

Using a hand auger to dig holes for the shed posts
 It isn’t all about construction this week. Being spring here, the weather is even more variable than at other times of the year. One day was 30 degrees Celsius (86’F) and then the next day it didn’t even make double digits (9’C or 48.2’F). That day the rain rolled in to the farm in waves – in between bouts of sunshine. I captured this photo of an approaching rainstorm:

Rain storm rolling into the farm
Meanwhile the state to the north of here has not only recorded the hottest October on record, but they’ve had bushfires already:

The orchard and plants are all happily doing their thing without my assistance, so I thought I’d add in some photos of the fruit as it looked this afternoon:

Apricots are showing their first blush of ripening
I’m really excited about the apricots as this year is their first really big crop. Previously, I’ve had to buy in apricots and this is a difficult matter because most orchardists don’t leave the fruit on the trees long enough to produce the awesome apricot flavour. Once you’ve eaten a sun ripened apricot you’ll never try and substitute one of those strange apricot looking, but completely flavourless lumps of cellulose that is sold in shops. Honestly, even the chickens here wouldn’t consider that unripened fruit as food!

Almonds are continuing to swell
The almonds are swelling in size too. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to net these almond trees to stop the sulphur crested cockatoos from eating them. The naughty birds take the almond nuts from the trees about a day before they are ripened, so it is a delicate matter of timing to thwart their activities.

Incidentally, those birds have a long memory and it is notable that Fred the sulphur crested cockatoo very recently reached the ripe old age of 100 years and even received a letter from the Queen of England! Well done Fred, keep away from the almonds.

While I was walking around this evening I spotted Stumpy the Wallaby, so thought that he’d make a nice photograph surrounded by more herbage than he can possibly eat. Observant readers will spot the bee colony in the background.

Stumpy the Wallaby has way too much herbage to eat
Red and black currants grow really well here – without any additional watering – and they seem to be having an exceptional crop this year. I add them to jams and my breakfast, but other than that I really struggle knowing what to do with them. If anyone has any good ideas, I’d appreciate hearing from them?

Black currants on the bush
The gooseberries are also having a good year. They’re a strange fruit because I thought that they’d taste sweet like other berries, but to my mind they’re more like a grape sultana. They’d probably make a good country wine or cider?

Gooseberries are starting to swell
Just to make the Northern hemisphere readers jealous, I’ve included a photo below of the ripening strawberries. In another couple of weeks, the massive strawberry bed will be producing about 0.5kg (1 pound) of ripe fruit per day. This is one of the few plants that are always netted to reduce predation. Honestly, it was bad enough that not only every form of wildlife here wanted to eat the strawberries, one day I found my dogs in the bed happily eating all of the ripe berries! I often get visitors to help me pick the ripe strawberries too and more often than not it ends up with them going: “One for me, one for me, one for me.”I think you get the picture!

Ripening strawberries - about two weeks away from being edible
This week has been most variable. The temperature outside here at about 9.45pm is 13.4 degrees Celsius (56.2’F) and tomorrow it will reach into the high 20'sC. So far this year there has been 676.4mm (26.6 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 666.4mm (26.2 inches).


Morgenfrue said...

Black currant cordial is really delicious, I like it with a little lemon in, it's very refreshing.

I've made jam with red and black currants and blueberries, and vanilla paste. You could surely use strawberries too. It tasted fine but the black currants seem to have tough skins that we ended up picking out.

Martin said...

Currants can be dried - to be enjoyed at a later date.

Gooseberries make excellent wine. I've never tried the process myself, but a friend of my older sister used to make gooseberry/dandelion wine that was unlike anything else I've ever tasted and surprisingly very good.

Angus Wallace said...

Thanks Chris, lots of very useful observations there. Your point about paths and access is really valid.

We built 80 cm paths between our vege beds which seemed ample at the time, but are now in many places completely closed with overhanging plants (traps for beginners). It makes wheelbarrowing very interesting!

As a point of interest, we were inspired by Linda Woodrow's "permaculture home garden" book to use sawdust/mulch for the paths. As it breaks down, the resulting compost can just be shovelled onto the beds.

Also, I've been reading your posts about your rainwater, and have got around to writing some more detailed documentation about my rainwater and solar hot water setups, which you might find interesting:

All the best,
Cheers, Angus

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hi Chris,
Wish I could help with currant suggestions, but just put mine in this year.

Here in Illinois, the squirrels looked so cute eating my strawberries this past spring. Aargh.

I'm reading a book called "Grass, Soil, Hope," by Courtney White that has an interesting section about pasture cropping in Australia. Thought you might want to give it a look.


Violet Cabra said...

When I was a 20 year old aimless traveller I spent some time in Northern Idaho with a motley gang of "rewilders," picking wild apricots and currants to dry them in the sun.

Dried currants are delightful! Sweet, with a lovely tang. Perfect in oatmeal or scones. Highly recommended, especially if you have a surfeit.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi CrowandSheep,

A lot of properties around here have dams (ponds), but they dry up during summer. The water courses in this part of the world run underground in gullies. Some properties have swimming pools which is probably not the best for the bees because of the chemicals.

I leave water for the animals, birds and insects in several different spots around the farm. There are a few ground containers for water which all of the marsupials and dogs drink from. There are slightly elevated ones for the insects to drink from. Then there are much larger hard to get to areas which the birds all drink from. They'll also splash around in that one on a hot day!

It has taken ages to work out who needs how much water and when.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, it was bigger than Ben Hur, hope you enjoyed the photos.

I thought the concept of a spudfest (spuds are potatoes) was dodgy but I'm really not sold on the slug concept.

Ah, that's no good, glad that you waved too. You never know the little impacts small gestures can have. My lady, visited her mum the night before she died and I'm truly grateful that she did so. The future is an uncertain beast.

Oooh! Good to see your friend sticking it too them. How cool would the quilt have looked? You can almost imagine a song about the competition: "The Devil came down to Idaho and he knew he'd been beat, that's the best damn quilt that's ever been!"

Art is about pushing the boundaries after all. There is an interesting and active spray paint culture in Melbourne (I ignore tagging as it is stupid and narcissistic) and there is a great painting of a Pomeranian dog on the wall of a shop in the inner city. It is mostly good stuff and people have been commissioning works to stay ahead of the taggers. Interestingly about a year ago, a plumber put a hole through the middle of a Banksy and there was much outrage in the community. Apparently it was an expensive bit of wall!

That is excellent timing - your dad must have had a vibe about the tree. Sometimes, you just can't tell.

Glad to hear that there is no frost yet! Yeah, the bushfires up north are a couple of weeks early, but they've been in a severe drought this winter. Not good.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Glad to hear that they have an art museum with a school attached. Very clever for their long term survival as an institution. Did you go and see the "Post Revolutionary Russian Films - The First Ten Years"? It would be a bit of an eye opener.

When I was in Laos, there was a museum and it was really quite unusual as they were describing us lot as Imperialist pigs and their running dogs. I'd never considered that perspective before! Still, the population seemed friendly enough, although that was early days in their experiences of Western tourists. I'm not sure that I could travel back there now and not feel that something had been damaged in the interim.

Daylight savings = Jet lag! For sure, it takes me about a week to get used to losing that hour of sleep. We're obviously finely tuned machines you and I! hehe. Feel free to grump!

Glad to hear that you are enjoying Hawes. She tells a great tale. I think the first book was called "Extra Virgin" - an olive oil reference, people - and it was an excellent read and tells the tale of how she ended up in that location in the first place.

What was also interesting to me was just how much wealth flowed into that area with the establishment of the European Economic Community. The background tales of people upgrading their tractors etc. was quite interesting.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Morgenfrue,

Thanks for the great ideas. I'd never have thought about using it to make a cordial. Additional uses for lemons is always welcome too!

The currants get added to jams here, but I'd never thought about adding them to a blueberry jam. Interesting idea.

Blueberries are difficult to grow here, not because of the soils, but the heat during summer knocks them around a bit. Plus I've been deliberately water stressing the blueberry plants so they become hardier in the long term. They haven't produced much fruit yet. There is a pick your own blueberry farm not too far from here, but they're on the side of a small river so water isn't as much of a problem as here.

Yeah, strawberry jam - is good! YUM!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Martin,

Many thanks for the suggestion. A solar or electric dehydrator is on the cards here. I never would have thought of drying them.

No, I haven't tried that either. Yeah, every single part of the humble dandelion is edible. Mixing the wine with gooseberry is a good idea because the last recipe I saw for dandelion wine involved an enormous amount of flower petals and honestly, I could not be stuffed going and picking them all. Plus, the bees would have stung me sooner or later. Dandelions are an important food source for the bees in high summer.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Angus,

Many thanks. Ahh, yeah I fell into that trap too, so you're in good company! Yeah, the paths and stairs are now a minimum of 1,200mm (4 foot) and I'm ruthless with cutting back the over hanging vegetation.

Oh yeah, fully laden wheelbarrows are hard to push through a jungle of vegetation.

It took me ages to get around to the idea of cutting back the vegetation after spending so long getting it established and even still, mostly the cuttings get re-planted elsewhere.

That is an excellent book by the way. I tried the sawdust / mulch and found that after a few years, the soil became so good, lots of self seeded plants started appearing in the middle of the paths. I mean lots of them. They got transplanted too, but I now apply the white Lancefield toppings to the paths as they have a high lime content, sharp edges (which stops rolling on the rocks like ball bearings) and sets reasonably firmly. Still, even today I spent some time removing self seeded plants from the toppings.

Thanks for the links, I'll drop by and have a look. It might be worthwhile checking out: Links syntax to provide a clickable html link.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Adrian,

I wish both your currants and garden well. They're really hardy and productive plants.

Have you tried Jostaberries and Gooseberries too?

Many thanks for the reference and I'll check it out. It is really unfortunate that the introduced sheep in this part of the world ate many of the ultra hardy perennial grass species back in the 1830's onwards. Who knows what was lost. The soils here were reputed to by credible people to have carbon contents as high as 22% at the time of European settlement...

I've been observing a couple of grass species here which weirdly flower during the high summer and yet stay green when all of the introduced grasses die off. It is a subject dear to my heart.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Violet,

Ahh, our collective misspent youth! That sounds like a fun activity. Down Under that is called gleaning and there are a couple of wild fruit trees around here which are really productive despite the overall lack of fertilising, pruning etc...

Did the wild apricots taste good? I've been tempted to grow some seedlings - which turn up here anyway.

I like the sound of a "motley gang" as they sound like a lot of fun but with both different skills and perspectives on life.

Many thanks. That food dehydrator is calling. I've tried dried cherries (I'll include some pictures of the trees next week) and they are as sweet as sugary lollies.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; I want a hand auger! Yeah, lots of clay soil here, too. Tried going at it with a post hole digger and that was pretty useless.

What is a cantina shed? "Cantina", to me, is a low rent tavern or bar in Mexico. Something from a spaghetti western.

Speaking of language, I saw your reference to "lollies." I figure, lolly pops or suckers, as we call them here. Often I read books set in England or watch films and there will be some reference that is unfamiliar to me. It will usually turn out to be some kind of candy or bakery item. BBC's "Call the Midwife" (set in England, 1950s) is rife with them.

Oh, I've seen a great many films in my life. From the silents to whatever came out last week. I'm not a "film" student. I just watch them for the entertainment value. I've seen a lot of Eisenstein's Russian silent films. "Battleship Potemkin" is a real zinger. I find it particularly interesting as my grandparents came from a little village near Odessa.

Speaking of silent films, can anything beat the "ice over the waterfall" scene from 1920s "Way Down East?" Lillian Gish has always been a favorite of mine. This little clip is 5 minutes.

When I think about building a solar dryer, I think I'll pick up a couple of small solar fans (Amazon has them) and mount them on the lower front of the intake. I think this will increase air circulation and dry stuff faster. We'll see.

Well, it poured here most of yesterday. Being out and taking care of the animals (the chickens, the dog ... no big deal) was miserable. When I was working in and out of the chicken house, all the chickens are clustered around the hen house door watching me, as if to say "Silly human. Doesn't have the sense to come out of the rain!"

It's supposed to clear up a bit on Friday and we're supposed to have a run of 5 or so days of dryer weather. We'll see. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah! It is the really sharp teeth in the hand auger that bites into the clay. It is really nifty that it compacts and then brings the clay out of the hole too. It leaves very neat holes.

Obviously it won't cut through rocks or large tree roots, but I use a wrecking bar to break them up in the hole and then remove them. Fortunately, really big rocks have been somewhere else so far but now that I've mentioned it!

A cantina as you may find out in the book is a place where you keep all of the necessary stuff you need for living on a small holding. Netting, preserving stuff, bottles, jars, bee stuff, fencing stuff etc. You'd be amazed how much stuff each different activity requires.

Of course there is nothing wrong with the Mexican sort of cantina either? Language is a funny thing.

Where do you keep all of that sort of stuff at your place?

Oh man, I've had a headache of a night because one of the hard drives in my work server died. How could a simple 10 minute job turn into a couple of hours extravaganza! Telling people who pay me to do things that I'm having computer problems sounds a bit like, "sorry sir, the dog ate my homework"! hehe. It is a bit late for a lemon cider now, but it would have been appreciated earlier. Ahh, computers, they're great when they work.

Can you tell that I interrupted replying to you to attend to the drama? All good now though.

Lollies here means the whole broad sweep of that sort of thing. As well as candy - which you don't see much here - it includes the squashy but solid jelly like sugary things like sour cola bottles, pineapples, chocolate covered honeycomb, chocolate bullets, milk bottles etc. A mixed bag of that sort of stuff is a necessity when visiting the cinema. Do you get those sorts of things up your way?

Hey, did you just segue from lollies to cinema smoothly in your reply? Nicely done and a deft touch with the words ;-)

Thanks for the link. Man, that looked way too cold for my liking. It was nice to see that the guy got the girl at the end too. Every time the guy either slipped or fell in was painful to watch. That is some stunt they pulled off. I can't imagine they did too many takes for those scenes? Just lying down on the ice would have been a killer for me. One suspects that the final scene from the movie Titanic drew a little bit from that earlier movie? Dunno.

Yeah, let me know how it goes with the solar dehydrator? I'm going to be slack and use an electric one as I barely know what to do with the electricity now...

Chickens seem to have more weather sense than dogs, but Beau sounds like a sensible animal and probably didn't put a paw outside during the rain?

This'll freak you out! Well, it freaked me out anyway. It has been ages since I took delivery of an LPG cylinder here. The cylinders are upright 45kg (about 99.2 pounds) and hold about 88 litres (23.25 gallons) of LPG. $115 each delivered. Yikes!

My inner Mr el-cheapo is now thinking of ways to cut back on LPG usage even more and hopefully eliminate it altogether.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Oh, I've got stuff scattered all over the place. The front porch, the laundry room. And, yes, I spend a lot of time looking for stuff. There's a lean-shed up against the house and a large garden shed (open on one side). But, they're full of piles of disorganized, mostly junk that belongs to my landlord. But I think I can do some packing away, tossing and reorganizing.

Didn't realize you were a tech guy. I'm running on a huge Apple desk top. I'm running Snow Leopard, which is so 5 updates ago. :-). I'm trying to work up the nerve for an update. Thought it would be easy, but every time I sign into the Apple website, and try and download something, I get a "Need to change your password message." So, I do, and get the same message, again. So, I guess when I work up the nerve, it will involve a long phone conversation with Apple. No cell phone service here, so, I had to go out and buy 30 feet of phone cable so I can move my phone to the office for the occasion. You see .... :-).

The segue was completely accidental. Maybe subconscious. Well, I certainly hit all kinds of candy varieties when I was a kid, but really can't remember what they all were. These days, about the only weakness I have is for chocolate peanut butter cups. And, the two small squares of high octane chocolate I eat almost every day for the health benefits (yeah, sure.) I've often thought about trying some of the candy recipes in the "Joy of Cooking." Michael Pollan in his books on food says that you can eat all the junk food you want ... as long as you make it yourself :-).

Interesting you should mention the Titanic. I thought it was Lillian Gish's sister Dorothy who was on the Titanic. Actually, it was another silent film star Dorothy Gibson. She and her mother survived and, just a few months later, she appeared in a film about it. It was the first Titanic movie.

The film clip from "Way Down East?" They used no stunt doubles. Lillian Gish's hair froze to the ice. Also, it was considered a pretty racy film for the time. Here's a bit about the filming....

Yikes! That is a lot for LPG. I made my weekly pilgrimage to the Little Smoke, today. Gas has dipped below $3, here. $2.99 point 9. Why not just say $3 and call it good? Psychology, I guess.

Yup. Didn't see much of Beau during the rain. He has a good sized, if primitive dog house. Tight, though. I just put quit a pile of straw in it, last week. He burrowed in and redecorated and rearranged to his satisfaction. Lew

Violet Cabra said...

The wild apricots growing along the Snake River were delicious, both raw and dried. My bad of sun-dried fruit lasted me a good six months and didn't spoil in the rainy, humid Oregon winter. I was impressed.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Your description sounds like most of the places around here too. It is really hard to find places to store all of this stuff so that it is accessible.

Someone once said: "A place for everything and everything in its place". That is one of the goals of the new shed. The bushfires last summer were a real wake up call as I had all sorts of flammable things stored around the house. Not good...

Noooo. There's no tech guy here. I used to know quite a bit about computers, then I sort of got a life instead. hehe! Macs are like a whole 'nother world to me I dread the moment that someone puts one in front of me. It would be like giving me a smart phone, I'd be going - I don't know how to use this thing, does it make phone calls? And that would be a serious question too!

We call cell phones, mobile phones. It is the other way around here, no copper land line but good mobile phone coverage with line of sight to about three different towers. There has to be some benefits to being on the side of a mountain. The downside though is that the Internet here must be the most expensive on the planet at about $115/month for 15Gb.

When I was a kid, 30ft of telephone cable made for a mobile phone! Too funny.

Well, it was nicely done. You're in good company too as my editor in chief is also a serious fan of the chocolate peanut butter cups which were virtually unseen Down Under until very recently. She knew about them from US sources.

You have to look after your health - even if that means partaking of the medicine of two small high octane chocolates per day. The medicine is a sacrifice but someone has to do it.

That guy speaks some serious common sense. He has a middle of the road approach to food - which is probably why so many people get upset by his message.

I make my own Anzac biscuits (with modifications of dark chocolate baking chips and peanuts) to have with a coffee at the end of a working day. A friend once remarked that the food cupboards here scared her because she didn't quite know what all of the stuff in there was! Being out in the sticks, means buying lots of bulk ingredients of all sorts of stuff, plus there is all of the preserving stuff - Which reminds me gotta get the cantina sorted out...

Wow, six degrees of separation.

Lillian was a bit of a stunner. I'm genuinely surprised to hear that there wasn't stunt doubles. Man, that river looked cold and water would have washing over the ice regardless...

Thanks for the link. It is funny what the censors of the day thought of as too risque!

Yeah, fuel prices have dropped here too. We're paying about $1.40/litre which works out to be US$ (you'll have to check my maths - sorry) US$1.21/litre or US$4.58/gallon (3.78541 litres to the US gallon). That's considered cheap here nowadays. The Aussie dollar has dropped in value a lot over the past month or so, but fuel costs didn't go up.

That rounding thing happens here too. Honestly, I can't believe it fools anyone? The lowest coin here is $0.05 anyway...

Beau sounds like he is a smart dog in dog paradise! The straw is a good idea and should keep him warm, clean and dry too.

The ones here that sleep outside have a kennel out of the rain and the southerly (from Antarctica along the roaring forties) winds. They're a bit spoilt as I pickup second hand real wool blankets for them. Wool blankets are crazy expensive here nowadays. Polyester is cheap as, but probably not a smart idea in a bushfire area as they melt...

The big smoke called today and for dinner I dropped in to the Southern/Creole restaurant again. They did a pretty nice fried green tomato p'oh boy. It was quite spicy from tabasco sauce and perhaps a bit of chilli too? There's some photos:

Po' Boy Quarter Fitzroy.

Fitzroy is the name of an inner city suburb.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Violet,

Many thanks for the feedback as I've been wondering about wild apricots and growing them from seed.

You lot are seriously starting to convince me of the benefits of a food dehydrator.

Glad to hear that the dried fruit lasted in the cool humid Oregon weather.

I know it is both incorrect and a stereotype, but photos or video footage from either Portland or Seattle always show the place raining...



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; In our local newspaper, today, on the comics page was "bee" strip. It's a strip called "Rhymes With Orange." Two bee keepers in full regalia, standing next to a hive box and one says to the other ... " The Queen died, and after a short period of chaos a fledgling democracy formed, but then there was a military coup led by a brutal strongman ... long story short the honey tastes lousy." :-) .

Oh, yeah. "A place for everything..." To bring order to chaos. I've got my work cut out for me. Something to fiddle at on long winter evenings. One of my best buddies is coming for a visit from Seattle on Veteran's Day, next Tuesday. So, I'm about to launch my usual neurotic clean of the house. Now I don't go to far over the top when it's just Mike, but he's bringing along someone I haven't met so ... panic time. Not much to send back with him this time. Some apples, eggs and a potato or two.

He's an interesting guy. Works for the US food inspection agency. His specialty is shell fish. Travels the world. Food inspection here is spread so thin that he's often pulled into things that have naught to do with shellfish. He went to New Orleans after Katrina to re-certify restaurants and grocery stores. Awhile back, we had a big bad peanut butter event. He was set to tracing where all the bad peanut butter went ... into some unexpected foods. He won an award for tracking down a new shellfish toxin that popped up. Turned out it was coming from some god forsaken little cove in Ireland. But, I digress .... :-) .

For some reason, the cell phone reception here is rubbish. I'm on a ridge, but, there is a taller ridge between me and the more populated parts of the county. That's the only thing I can figure. So, I have a land line and internet. That used to cost me $91 a month, but is now $78 as I get a little government assistance since I'm old and povety stricken :-). That price is pretty much locked in for 5 years. I really don't understand how the system works. There's a box at the road and a box under the porch. A funny little box with an antenna in the front bedroom and the signal somehow (Wi-Fi?) makes the leap to my office in the back bedroom.

You know, somewhere around here I've got a recipe for making your own chocolate peanut butter cups. I see there are also recipes on the internet. Here you can buy an ice cream that has broken up peanut butter cups in it. I try to steer clear of ice cream. If I don't buy it, I don't eat it. Simple, yes? :-). Of course, the stuff I really like to roll in, is the pumpkin ice cream that is only available for a short time each year. Like, now.

Pollan is quit the writer. Sometimes, also very funny. I notice that our library had on order an older book of his (1991?) called "Second Nature: A Gardener's Education." I put a hold on it and see that it's waiting for me at my local branch. I'll probably pick it up next wednesday.

Beau is such a good ol' dog. Last year I started to bring him in anytime the temperature dropped to freezing. I put him in the laundry room for the night on some old blankets. Such a good dog. Never makes a peep and has never made a mess on the floor.

I've been contemplating getting a pup when I get back from my late spring trip to Idaho. I'm thinking big sloppy black lab :-). I think he'd be good company for Beau and maybe Beau will teach him to be a good watch dog, as Beau is. I'm thinking about what a BIG RESPONSIBILITY that will be. Also, intend to take him to the local dog training school. Ran it past my landlord a couple of times and he didn't seem opposed to the idea.

My cats kitten stage nearly drove nuts and I realize a dog will be far worse, in different ways. I want to make sure I'm up for the challenge before I get another dog. So it goes. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Too funny. Actually that's exactly what happened here last summer when the colonies absconded. It is pretty ruthless in the world of bees.

It made it to 31'C (87.8'F) today and should be 34'C (93.2'F) tomorrow. I was hoping to put some more steps in place and also a couple of posts, but who knows.

I'm in the orchard right now with the chooks and there are insects everywhere, you can actually hear the buzz from the bees if you get near the bee garden. One of the silkies keeps kicking dirt over me...

Your task, should you decide to accept it... It is no easy task. Order from the chaos. You have to be mindful of your landlords stuff too. I don't envy you on that one. Of course it is a rough guest that points out failings whilst enjoying the accommodation, food and companionship!

Yeah, sounds like you'll be up for a fun time with the guests. Wow, I bet he's seen a thing or two in his time. What went wrong with the peanut butter? I go to a place that mills it on the spot and it has never been off - yet...

Shellfish toxin from Ireland? What? How could that possibly get into shellfish over in the US? Did someone dump a bilge or something like that?

We get invasive starfish from Asia in our ports and they usually worked their way across in various hulls and bilges.

Speaking of Ireland, I read recently that one of our major supermarket chains was in a bit of trouble for promoting its bread as fresh baked daily. Technically they were correct, but the reality was the dough had been made in Ireland up to 6 months beforehand. Who would have thought it?

Digressions are good, I'm certainly guilty of that too! hehe!

Hey, that's winning that is. Nice work. Yeah, the frequencies they use for mobile phones means that it has to be mostly line of sight with a small allowance for bouncing around of the signals. That ridge line would block it for sure. There are black spots here too in sheltered valleys and gulleys, which was always a worry for the local fire brigade as you'd just drop off the radar so to speak.

Thanks, but I think I can live without knowing how to cook peanut butter cups. It'd be good though.

Pollan has a great writing style. I'd be interested to hear if the book is worth the time? You are lucky to have such a good library system locally.

Beau obviously respects the treatment too. Dogs teach each other all the stuff that they've learned. Having said that, they all have very definite personalities and some are curious, whilst others are a bit thick. You never know what you are going to get either. Pomeranians for example are willful which is not necessarily something that you want in a dog. But once they work past that stage, they decide to get with the program and are exceptionally bright. They all bring something different to the table. My current boss dog is hopeless especially compared to the previous boss dog, but performs just enough useful functions to earn her dinner.

Puppies and kittens are a major hassle. It is akin to chucking a molotov cocktail into the household. I hear you, man.

So it goes, is too true. I don't know whether to get another boss dog whilst the current one is alive in case she teaches the next one too many bad habits. Dunno either. I'd take Beau as he sounds like he'd lift the average? hehe!



Stacey Armstrong said...

Hiya Chris,

The forms for your steps look like a great set-up.... I am considering the possibility on my slope. The neighbour has a cement mixer I could borrow. It's good to see you building stones now that you've run out! I mixed a lot of cement during a summer job in my twenties; I am sure it's like riding a bike.

I have five litres of candied quince tucked away now thanks to your recipe. Mine turned out quite a lot like a jam. Really great on toast, custard or as part of a newton. I took the rest of the quince and dehydrated it to add to a few of the teas I have been concocting here. It is really great with ginger or green tea.


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; The Silkie is kicking dirt over you? Quick! Check your pulse! :-).

Oh, yeah. Order from chaos. Well, I toss the obvious garbage and pack the rest of it up in marked boxes. My landlord is getting around less an less. I packed a lot of stuff from his mom's place (some of it junk) into boxes and it went up on my second floor. He'll never see it again. Probably.

But the other day, he came looking for "a small garbage can of deer antlers" that was in the basement. He can't negotiate the stairs, anymore. So, I rummaged around, and sure enough, there they were. He's going to gift them to the son of a friend of his who is going to make knife handles out of them. I got enough mildew on me that I had to wash my pants and coat :-).

The shellfish toxin? Globalization. So, the actual toxin didn't make it to our waters, but the product made it to our supermarkets ... or seafood wholesalers. As I remember, the Great Peanut Butter Hunt was salmonella. A dirty factory that had stuff falling off the ceiling and overhanging pipes into vats of peanut butter. The penny first dropped when dogs and cats started dying. I guess peanut butter makes it into lots of pet food. Pet "treats."

Hmmm. That "baked fresh daily" bit. Here we have a "truth in advertising" laws. You probably do, too. But, the laws don't have much "teeth." Usually, when some company gets caught out, it's "So sorry, won't do it again." Or, a very small fine.

Kind of related. I choose to avoid high fructose corn syrup. And, if I'm going to use sugar in cooking, I'd rather use cane sugar. So, there was some sugar on sale, but the package didn't state if it were cane or beet sugar. I passed.

The other day I was reading a label on some food (forget what) and the contents label said "organic sugars." Not a clue as to what kind of "organic sugar." Since high fructose corn syrup comes from, well corn, I suppose it could be considered an organic sugar ... at a stretch. I passed.

Here in the States, we're having a big hoopla over labeling GMO food products. In fact, election before last, there was a labeling law on the ballot. After the food industry poured big money into the state for advertising, it didn't pass. Been defeated in state after state. But, the margin between passing and failing keeps getting narrower and narrower. But when it passes, then will come the inevitable court cases ...

Ah, animals. Sometimes I feel like my life revolves around them. I've been thinking about putting up a Christmas tree, this year. Haven't done it in years, but I've got these boxes and boxes of old ornaments. An artificial tree. But, there's the cat ... So, the living room is out. I could put it in the front bedroom, but that seems like defeating the purpose. But, I had a brainstorm, yesterday. There's a huge holly bush over at Don's mom's. If I piled holy around the base of the tree ... It's a thought. We'll see.

Seems kind of silly. I (for the first time in years) got out all my Halloween stuff. Only one other person saw it. So, if I do stuff for the holidays, it's really just for me.

I never talk down to my animals. Probably silly, I know. Chicken or cat or dog, they all get respect. Never mind what I'm thinking ... :-).

That cajun restaurant looks like it's putting out some seriously good grub. I keep thinking I'd like to explore different cuisines. I've sure got the books for it. Do a month of British Isles. A month of Chinese. Cajun. Amish / Mennonite. Explore French country cooking. Italian. You get the idea.

Well. We actually have some sunshine, today. Stuff to do outside. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

The form was really easy to setup as it is treated pine so it should have a long life. The stairs rise (up and down) 180mm in height (7.08 inches) as that feels reasonably natural. The width is 1,200mm (47.24 inches) and the going (front of step to the back of the step) is 350mm (13.77 inches). The actual going of the step is a bit shorter in practice as one step sits on top of the other.

You can twist and turn the steps too as you'll see in next weeks photos. Many, many years ago a mate of mine pointed out that I always made paths in straight lines with perhaps a little bit too much precision. He was stirring me up for sure, but I took the point on board and also with good grace so now all the paths and steps here have a more organic and natural sort of flow. It actually looks better that way anyway. Nature rarely does straight lines.

Oh yeah, the cement mixer is a top idea to save your back. Thoroughly recommended. It was 32'C (89.6'F) here in the shade today and by about 3pm I was seriously feeling the sun.

Haha! You lot are too observant! I'd never considered that aspect about the rocks, but you are 100% correct. Great observation.

Of course, if you can mix up a cake or a loaf of bread, then concrete is exactly the same consistency and method - just a little bit heavier!

Great to hear that you utilised the quince recipe. Yeah, I snack on the candied fruit, whilst using the liquid as a jam. And, what an excellent jam the quince fruit makes. Quince jam on toast or freshly baked bread is a true experience. YUM! The candied quince recipe is just so much less work than the other recipes, plus you get to utilise the skins of the fruit which have the pectin. Mind you, coring the fruit is not easy either. The quinces are in flower here at the moment!

No hurry responding, but I've never heard of a newton so have no idea what that is and if it isn't too much to ask, I'd also be really interested to hear about what sort of dehydrator that you use for your fruit? Over the next few months I'm planning to commit to a food dehydrator.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

hehe! Well, you'd sort of think that any bird that looks like a Silkie chicken would be at the bottom of the pecking order, but strangely they do OK for themselves. Their main problem is that they go broody too often which is a real pain given that none of the eggs are even fertilised here. A guy I've been speaking with for many years buys fertilised eggs over the Interweb and chucks them under broody chooks. I'm just not there yet...

Making order out of chaos is no easy task at all. It reminds me of the work that I do in the forest here, simply reducing the fuel loads. I don't reckon I'll live long enough to complete that particular job as it is so massive!

Man, your place sounds huge with a second story and all? Still, there is only so much space that you can use and storage is important.

I wouldn't place a bet on whether he'd see the stuff again or not, as he demonstrates an uncanny ability to know what and where stuff may be. Personally, I'd be a bit freaked out finding a garbage can full of deer antlers in my basement! hehe! Did you ever get the chance to see show True Detective as the deer antlers has some relevance to that?

Yeah, globalisation of the food supply is probably not a good thing. Down Under used to be a massive offshore farm for the UK so it is a problem with a very long history. Personally, I don't worry about such craziness as when coffee - just as an example - is brought back here from some exotic part of the world, I can satisfy myself that the import is contributing to the top soil. I sort of look at it like flows of nutrients from one part of the world to another?

Do you have a septic system or are you connected to a town sewerage system?

Wow, you'd be a bit unhappy about that. I really like peanut butter too. It is a race to the bottom.

Yeah, here it comes down to whether the laws are enforced or not and what the influence of the perpetrator is.

A great idea, and as an interesting side note, you rarely see high fructose corn syrup here because the soils don't support large quantities of corn. Mainly sugar comes from cane sugar which is grown up on the NE coast in Queensland around Bundaberg (which also produces a reasonably tasty rum). Rum has a long history in Australia and at one point it was the actual currency and there was even a rebellion over the stuff. Check out Rum rebellion. Whoever thought bringing Captain Bligh out here to act as a Govenor - who had already suffered a famous mutiny of the Bounty fame - was a good idea needed their head read. He was replaced by a much more forward thinking and well respected Govenor (Lachlan Macquarie) who also eventually copped it in the neck many years later.


Cherokee Organics said...

The GMO labelling debate is about the same here. In fact there was an interesting court case here recently about a farmer (Steve Marsh) who farmed organically and was certified as such but lost his organic certification when GMO crops cross pollinated his fields from a neighbours farm. My understanding is that he apparently lost his court case to recover damages from his neighbour.

Not good.

haha! I can see the cat in my mind stealing the Christmas baubles as play toys - one by one they'd disappear! hehe.

Hope the place looked good on Halloween too?

Of course, the animals are part of the place that you live, so they are all valuable in their own way - even when here they are destroying my oldest cherry tree. Plus, I really appreciate the colour and life they add to the place here - as you never quite know what is going to happen next!

The very large Pomeranian got out tonight after hiding in the house all day due to the heat and did a full scout of the farms perimeter. It was amazing to watch.

It was quite hot for early in the season today, but by 7pm it had dropped down to 12'C (53.5'F) outside and started drizzling which was really very nice. At about 4pm, I had dragged myself inside the house after a very early start this morning and promptly fell asleep under a ceiling fan for about an hour. I think the Spanish call this a Siesta?



Stacey Armstrong said...

Morning Chris,

I always seem to have a little more time at the weekend to noodle about online. I have been putting parts of my garden to bed this week. Mulching with sea weed, leaves and old hay. I forked out one of the main swale-paths and filled it with wood chips. I am quite curious to see how my garlic will grow in the soil/compost from the path. This passed week I was introduced to a maveny-sort of fellow who doesn't care for sea weed on his beach access. He even helped me load the bins!

I noticed this week that you and Lew have been talking about Michael Pollin's work. I take making our own sweets/baked goods very seriously. You may have heard or even eaten a Fig Newton? I have been experimenting with different fruit Newton's here. They are basically a soft sandwich cookie. My partner's grandma used to make something similar called a jam-jam.

The dehydrator I currently use was a freebie from someone who was down-sizing and trying to get real about their interests. I have quite a collection of homesteading gear from this kind of de-cluttering. I happily took possession of a grain grinder over the summer that hadn't seen much use. My mom has an Excalibur dehydrator that I would happily upgrade to. It seems to do a more even job with less fussing, especially on plums and tomatoes.


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Yup. You got to avoid those straight lines in a garden. I kind of remembered something about that in relationship to Japanese gardens. Paths and bridges should meander as to elude evil spirits, which can only travel in straight lines :-). Another school of thought says the layout of Japanese gardens are to provide more "views."

Well, I think it's pretty evident by now that I got no roosters in the chicks I raised. So, next time I'm at the feed store, I need to check their "rooster board."

Just out of curiosity, I paced off the house to ge a rough estimate of how big it is. About 42 x 68 feet. Or, about 1,140 square feet. Most of the area is taken up by a living room / kitchen. There's just enough of an arch between to define the different areas. Short hallway, front and back bedroom (office) separated by the bathroom. A laundry room/tool room/pantry. And, a bit of footage taken up by the stairs going up and down. Same footage in the basement and upstairs ... neither of which I use, much. Large front porch and back deck. Large lean-to / storage shed attached to (and accessible from the laundry room or outside) the house. All subject to that immutable law of the universe, "Junk expands to fill the space allowed." (TM. Lew) :-).

No, I didn't get around to watching True Detective. I've been going through an odd change of late. Or, at least I can't figure it out. OK. I follow about 25 tv series that I get from the library in season doses. Spread over a year it's not really overwhelming. Or, I did. For some reason or another, I've just kind of lost interest in a lot of them, and have been crossing them off the list. Maybe it's just that there's so much more interesting stuff going on around here. Or, maybe it's that I feel a lot of pressure (impending doom?) that the next bump down the decline is not far off. Or, maybe it's just the ADR effect :-).

I'm on a septic system. So far, so good. I fret about it from time to time. If it will have to be pumped while I'm here. I'm sure when the evil step son lived here with his brood that it was abused. But, I'm very careful what goes into the drains and put two scoops of some magic stuff into it, once a month. So far, so good.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Interesting about your Rub Rebellion. We had a Whiskey Rebellion, here, about the same time.

I guess the lesson for "the powers that be" is, "Don't mess with my grog!"

Yeah, there's been a lot of GMO suits here and in Canada. The ones I've been hearing about is that GMO crops show up on farmer's land and they are sued by the big seed companies for using GMO crops without license. Not good, indeed.

Oh, yeah. Broke out the Halloween tat for the first time in years. On the sideboard, a huge pile of glass veg. 5 small glass pumpkins made by a local glassblower and various other glass veg and fruit that I've picked up over the years. Mostly Chinese or from Taiwan. Most recent score, a really cool glass carrot! $4 from a thrift. Most of the rest of it in a china cupboard. My Boyd Bear figures and several Mexican muertos. Oh, and a flight of 4 kitchen witches between the living room and kitchen. I fly them in formation :-).

I noticed what you said over on ADR about inflation. Here we have (sometimes) a "cost of living" increase in my Social Security payment. It was just announced that this years increase will be 1.7%. In my case, about $14 a month. I'll try not and spend it all in one place :-). Same goes for my small State retirement.

But you were talking about land. Here, what's happened is, since the crash of 2008... well, you'd think land prices would go down. And, to a little extent, they have. But it's the property taxes that are a real problem.

Say you had a piece of land that was valued at, for property tax purposes $100,000. Before the crash, you probably could have sold it for that much. Maybe even more as, before the crash (or, when values were spiraling up) most places sold for more than their assessed value. But now, you could only sell your land for $50,000. But the assessed value doesn't go down. If the assessors are really pushed to provide an explanation for this, it seems to be "We have set expenses that have to be met."

I received a small inheritance, recently. Nothing life changing, but my mind has wandered to the possibility of buying a place. Land prices here are (to my way of thinking) way too high. When I go to Idaho in the late spring, I may look around a bit. But, I don't think I'd like the climate and the conservative political climate that makes me rather unhappy here, is even worse over there. It would also help if I were 40 instead of 65 :-).

Also, way back in July over at ADR he was talking about "Provisional Living." That has really got me thinking, and I think it's a trap that I frequently have fallen into.

But, back here in the real world, I finally got the asparagus trench topped off and put a couple of inches of straw on top to keep it cozy over the winter. Also got the Rosemary that has been languishing and rooting in a bottle of water into a half wooden tub that took me an afternoon to clean out.

Every night around sunset I go out and feed Beau and spend some time communing with him. He eats, I scratch his ears and talk to him. The other night I saw something I hadn't seen before. A rather large owl came out of the woods and started working the back pasture. I hear them all the time, but this is the first I have seen. He came in pretty close, tacking off to the left and then began a run down the fence line .... toward my chicken yard. They were in for the night but I hadn't closed the door, yet. So I began yelling and screaming at the owl (You kids get off my lawn!) and he zoomed off back into the forest. The other day when I came home from taking my neighbor to a doctor's appointment, there were two little guys, two little deer in the road in front of my place. I think they might have been the twin fawns I saw earlier this year. Yup. As damaging as the wildlife can be, they do add to a place and make life interesting.

Here we call Siestas, naps :-). And I think there's one in my near future. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey and Lewis,

MKany thanks for the comments.

Time and concreting duties have gotten away from me completely today so apologies, but I'll respond to your comments on tomorrows blog.