Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Down Under style

It might be an exaggeration to say that you can see the houses in the photos below from space (maybe), but they’re certainly very noticeable from many kilometres (miles) away.

Yeah, I have to confess to my love of Christmas lights. When every house on a particular street just goes feral and there are a crazy amount of Christmas lights all over every house and yard, it is certainly something to see! I can’t explain what it is about the display that I like and I freely admit that it is an incredible waste of resources and energy, but wow, it just looks amazing and people travel from all around the area to be both awed and amazed by the display. 

The display of Christmas lights over houses isn’t a common thing Down Under and that perhaps is why it draws so much attention. When I was a young child my mother used to take me into the city to see the displays at this time of year in the Myer department store windows. That department store had been preparing new and interesting displays at Christmas every year since well before the Great Depression and the people would turn up in droves – even today well into the night – to see what new display would be shown that year. Perhaps that is why I enjoy the light displays so much? Who knows?

Back to the houses though and I seriously doubt that the three wise men even knew about Eucalyptus trees all those millennia ago:
Carla Views in Sunbury – There is even a Christmas Eucalyptus tree
In all of the crazy light displays, I spotted a Christmas emu (which is a really massive native bird akin to an Ostrich) and a Christmas kangaroo. Well done!

The Christmas kangaroo and emu
I also noticed that one particular house in that court had a reindeer which looked as though it was either drunk and falling over, or maybe it was about or about to eat the tail of the kangaroo next to it. The kangaroo however appears to be fleeing to safety.Top work!

Reindeer drunkenly falling onto a kangaroo
Christmas is at best a confused time in Australia. The iconography simply fails to conform to the real world experience. For example, I doubt very much whether there is a single flake of snow or natural ice anywhere on the entire continent and yet we persist with such confusing images as reindeers and dudes wearing heavy clothing. Honestly both of them would possibly die of heat exhaustion within hours of their arrival on the continent! The reality of Christmas Down Under is hot sun and turbulent weather. The photo below shows the sun setting over the flowering herb garden.

Sun setting over the flowering herb garden
The extra heat from the sun is causing the plants to grow. I’m now in the position of having to make the decision to prune all of that extra plant growth. The photo below shows that the plant growth is now taking over paths and steps. It is like a feral jungle!

The summer plant growth has now taken over paths and steps
I’m considering purchasing a second hand electric chipper to chip up all of this additional plant growth and then add that mulch back into the garden beds. It is a bit of an experiment and we’ll see how it turns out over the next few months.

I spotted an unusual plant in the garden beds this week. It is a native yam (murnong daisy) and I’d forgotten that I’d even planted it. For the ancient Aboriginals it was the equivalent of the potato plant and they were widely cultivated across the continent. I’m looking forward to seeing how it grows and whether it self-seeds. As an interesting side note, it looks exactly like a massive and over sized dandelion and I’m reasonably certain that the large leaves may provide a long term summer green, a massive edible root and very reliable bee food.

Native yam in amongst salad burnett
This week I added guttering to the new shed so that when it rains, I can collect that rainfall and direct it into the water tanks. Roof areas in Australia are valuable real estate items for either collecting sunlight or rainfall (or both) and the work on the shed this week has effectively increased by half the amount of rainfall that I collect at that area of the farm.

In the photo below you may also notice that I have installed a stainless steel mesh screen over the window to the shed. This mesh significantly increases the resiliency of that window (which is already two layers of 5mm (0.2 inch) double glazed and toughened glass) in the likely event of a bushfire.

New shed with guttering and stainless steel mesh over the window
The clever editor of this blog came up with a totally genius idea (well I am biased) for storing hand tools in the new shed. The photo below tells the story better than I can:

Tool storage in the new shed
They are even labelled.

Over the years I’ve experimented with different systems at the farm here and one of them was a totally rubbish idea which I’ve only just corrected this week. When I built the house I installed a timber door on the room where I store the batteries for the off grid solar power system. Now ordinarily this wouldn’t be a problem, except that I’m in a bushfire area and timber doors tend to burn when exposed to flame and heat. In order to comply with the building regulations here, I had to then fit a fire tested roller shutter over that timber door. That fire tested roller shutter wasn’t too difficult to source and fit. However, unfortunately it had to be electrically powered in order to roll up and down. Again, this wouldn’t be a problem except that one day a year or so back, without thinking about the consequences, we started using a lot of electricity in the house (well over 9kWh) in short succession. The power system quickly over heated due to the very high demand and in order to protect itself, it shut down.

Now very observant readers may be able to see where this story is going.

After the power system shut down, I thought that I’d enter the battery room and reset the electronic equipment. It was at that point that I realised that the fire tested roller shutter covering the timber door was closed and I had no other way of getting into the battery room to reset the electronics.

That problem is now fixed and I have secured a sheet of steel over the timber door, replaced the door-jam with aluminium and installed a heavy duty stainless steel mesh door on the outside whilst removing the fire tested roller shutter. There is truly something to be said about keeping systems simple.

Scritchy the boss dog looks on with approval at the new stainless steel door fitted over the battery room
A few evenings ago I spotted Stumpy the wallaby about to pounce onto a fruit tree and took this close up shot. Stumpy is actually a lady wallaby and you can see the outline of her pouch and she is looking quite irritated at the interruption to her devious plans:

Stumpy the house wallaby annoyed at the disruption to her nefarious plans
How did I get here?

The recession of 1990/91 left me with a feeling of vulnerability.

So began my wilderness years where I worked long hours in various jobs. During that time I continued part time study at University at night to achieve an under graduate degree. Then after the 8 years that was required to achieve that particular goal, I continued on with further education and completed a post graduate course.

Over the years I progressed from one job to the next and eventually rose to the very top of my profession. It was all heady heights and heavy responsibility.

Alas, I am not one of those born to handle heavy responsibility well. Perhaps it was my experiences during the recession early in my adult life. Who knows for sure, but employment left me feeling like an uncertain lover happily bedding their partner, but forever looking over that partners shoulder to different opportunities.

To be continued…


Cathy McGuire said...

PS - I just went through three levels of Hell to get Google to enable comments under my first chapter - I'm very angry that I'd (or Google had) somehow hidden the ability to comment! The 87 views I've gotten so far will likely not return to comment... sigh... anyway, it should be enabled now...

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; The blog ate my homework? :-). Or, maybe, what with putting up the new post, it just hasn't been "approved for publication" yet. Not much worth repeating, except my thoughts on the book "Fire Monks."

I confess I also like Christmas lights. Some of the displays here are also over the top. Can't remember any displays of the local fauna, however. No bear or bison. And, yes, when I grew up in Portland, the Meier and Frank Department stores had the best window displays. That's where we usually visited "Santa." Plus there was the local cult of the cinnamon bear. I forget the story now, but if you visited Santa, you also got a bear shaped cinnamon biscuit (cookie.) I think my favorite tree lights were the "bubble" lights. They still make them and if I ever get around to putting up a tree, I'll get a string.

The picture of the sunset over the herb garden is really nice.

Looks like a Dandelion, to me! :-). Do you have a plant called "Queen Anne's Lace" Down Under? It's very closely related to a wild carrot. We have a lot of both around here.

Oh, what a tale of the battery room door. I bet the air was blue ... Reminds me of locking myself out of the house. Only took me three times of crawling through the basement window and ripping one of my favorite shirts before I finally got around to putting a key outside. I'm not a quick study ... :-) .

Think I'll bake some cookies this afternoon. Some oatmeal, raisin, apple concoction. For the post lady, the newspaper delivery guy and me.

That's quit a tool system. Reminds me I need to get my tools organized. Usually, I just go with the "two nails pounded in the wall" system.

Well, JMG probably had a happy solstice. That matter I mentioned before involving the tip jar. The work he does is valuable, at least to me. Lew

SLClaire said...

Hi Chris,

A happy Solstice to you!

I am another fan of light displays and have four small strings of LED lights entwined in the front porch railing of our house for the pleasure of those passing by the house. Here where it is the winter solstice, seeing colorful lights brings cheer to my heart and reminds me that winter will end, in due time. My husband and I saw one of our favorites last night, in a nearby suburb, where several neighboring houses on a single street all put up lots of lights and decorations, amplifying the effect.

In Florida where my mom lives I have seen lights in the shape of palm trees, flamingos, and alligators when I've visited in December. Floridians probably feel something similar to what you feel, as the subtropical winter is also not conducive to the Santa tradition. Even here in St. Louis we have snow at Christmas only one year in ten, so the snowy scenes in cards don't generally match local conditions. But at least it's cold and nothing is growing, so the symbolism fits better for me than it does for you.

Cathy McGuire said...

Hmm... once again my first comment got eaten? Or perhaps you posted it on the other page... if you can't find it, here it is again (I'm really sorry - I must be driving you nuts with the PS showing up but the first post didn't...)

Ah, you remind me of when I was living in Southern CA for 8 years (college & then some) after NY/NJ Christmases - the images of Santa with a surf board just had me laughing hysterically; my Xmas card that year was Santa surfer(maybe not that funny, but So. CA was known for another tradition that made other things a lot more funny. ;-))

I really wish I could taste homegrown citrus - all the other homegrown stuff are sooo much better that I have to believe you that the citrus is a special treat!

The only chance we'll get a white Christmas here is if the cottonwood trees suddenly think it's summer again and release their floaty white seeds. :-) Or, I could drive about a half hour up into the mountains - that's one of the awesome things about the Willamette Valley - I'm an hour from snow, 1.5 from lava, and 1.5 from ocean - and mostly protected from all of them! Wonderful place!!

Native yam?? Looks like a dandelion! Could that be too much Christmas spirit(s) imbibed? ;-)

As I mentioned last post, as part of my Solstice celebration, I've started to share my post-decline novel in progress, JMG-style, one chapter a week, on my blog:

Helpful feedback and critique welcome. I'm on Chapter 17 so I'm hoping to keep ahead of readers and that this will push me to find the ending! Just to keep this from skewing the comments here, post comments about my story on my blog, please - I don't want to hijack Cherokee's fine postings! I posted it yesterday on JMG's blog and was blown away to find 66 visits just yesterday - yes, JMG is getting a decent following these days!! :-)

artinnature said...

Hi Chris, I recon we should bring our conversation over here so everyone can benefit from our combined brilliance (ha, ha!).

Not to pile on but if that's not a Dandelion (Taraxacum) I'll eat my Green Wizards hat!

Good news over here, our wood stove is in and we've been heating entirely with wood since December 12! Natural gas furnace is off, I even closed off the heat registers and cold air return!

Happy winter solstice! But down under it has the opposite meaning: days are now getting shorter for you, longer for us. I really do feel re-energized today: pruned trees for money, picked up a load of salvaged concrete chunks on the way home, split some wood and refilled the wood rack in the house while it wasn't raining.

You should see the Christmas lights displays in our town, I think they become more elaborate each year.

Cheers from Cascadia


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

Yeah, blogger gets hungry and eats comments. Your comment was on last weeks blog.

It is so easy to over-do one item and then under-do another. It takes a long time to get a feel for pantry management. Earlier this year, I wish I'd made more apple cider vinegar as it has an amazing amount of uses. I'm planning to add a tap to the bucket I make the stuff in and just make a huge amount of the stuff.

Blackberry jam is good stuff and that is an interesting idea to use up old jams too. I'd never have thought of that.

Yeah, well chard and kale are an acquired taste. On the other hand they both grow verily easily and in abundance... Chard is a staple summer green here and I'm hoping to collect some seeds from a red chard over the next few weeks.

You really do learn through trial and error. It is nice to have the time to do so as I lost 12 bottles of preserved apricots last week because we stuffed up the process by trying to cut a corner. Still, there are 35 left in the pantry so it isn't dire.

Unfortunately, nothing is in surplus yet - everything gets used one way or another. The strawberry production has slowed down now. Tomatoes will be the next really big crop and I'm going to experiment with passata this year. Zucchinis and cucumbers just keep fresh for months. The fruit trees really need another 5 years before I'm really drowning in fruit.

Blackberry jam is the next on the list for preserving, but I have to purchase more bottles in mid January when the supplier re-opens.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

Yeah, santa on a surfboard is a common image here too. There is a bit of surf culture along the coastline here and you may have heard of Bells Beach? You are naughty too, well done! There's nothing wrong with a bit of naughtiness.

Homegrown citrus is more intense than the stuff sold in shops. The fruit has to transport so it never gets enough sun ripening. Mandarins really are amazing tasting, but I'm not sure about the shop bought ones as they taste like water to me.

Ahh, cottonwood is actually a poplar species. Interesting and a good looking tree. They grow silver poplars here as well as the more upright tall but narrow poplars.

Your location sounds excellent. Impressive and imposing mountain too. The images are very green.

I'm not sure whether you are the first person to comment on the yam daisy (because you posted to last weeks blog) but top work! It is of the dandelion family and is native to Australia and in this case the flower indicates that the plant is developing one or more tubers: Yam Daisy. It is of the Microseris family (genus?) - please correct me.

I've got a photo of a native grass which may freak you out as it has purple flowers and stays green over even the hottest summers. The whole area when it was better managed - before Europeans turned up - was apparently a carpet of wildflowers under tall trees. The accounts from the early explorers are staggering - even if you take the hyperbole down a few notches.

Many thanks for the link, I'll read this over the next few days as time permits and leave a comment.

I do my best...



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

Early days! If they enjoy reading your story, hopefully they'll return. The stats here tell me that 1 in 100 readers actually leaves a comment.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Haha! Blogger gets hungry - watch out! The system comes up with a message saying that there are comments to be moderated and I've only deleted one comment so far. I reckon it disappeared!

Actually, I was interested in hearing your thoughts on the book "Fire Monks". Was it a good story?

You're in good company then. I see an untapped market for new LED designs - I reckon the trick is to add a red santa cap. You've just made your first million adding a red santa cap to a brown bear!

Yeah, the window displays were something else. Even now, they get huge crowds turning up all day and night to check them out. It is nice. Incidentally, cinnamon biscuits are really yummy. Add in a bit of ginger and the things are to kill for.

Thanks. My old camera died about half a year ago and I picked up a new SLR camera (second hand) which fitted the existing lenses. It is one of the few technological items that I use that really actually has progressed in leaps and bounds. The big yellow flowers are Evening Primrose, but there are about a dozen other plants in the shot too.

Haha! You and everyone else. Good pickup as it is one of the naive dandelions so looks much the same as an introduced dandelion but only much bigger. I'm trying to track down more of them as I picked it up from a bush food section in a quirky plant nursery down in Melbourne. Unfortunately, they've got this bush food section, but they don't have tags saying how the plants are utilised as an edible. The native yam, I've been keeping an eye out for because it has had so many historical observations from the early explorers. It is an undemanding plant, but produces multiple tubers. Good stuff.

Yeah, Queen Anne's lace is available here, but I probably couldn't tell the difference between it and wild carrots - which are feral here.

Hehe! Too funny. No magic blue smoke fortunately as it was a tripped triple pole circuit breaker (sorry to go all geek on you! ;-)). What a nuisance.

Well, it isn't until your systems are tested under all conditions that you can give those basement windows a pass! Hopefully the shirt wasn't like a Cramer (Seinfeld TV show reference) smoking jacket?

The cookies sound very nice. I hope the baking turned out well? I must confess to a liking of a biscuit and coffee at the end of the working day. It is nice to sit outside and enjoy the view and contemplate the world. Cookies are good to facilitate that!

Yeah, the two nails system is good too. Unfortunately, with the shed being steel and all, I started getting sick of driving tek screws into the thick steel. There are several hundred of them holding the whole thing together. Hopefully, it ain't goin anywhere soon.

Well done. It is valuable to me too. What do they say: "to be forewarned is to be forearmed"?

Happy winter solstice too!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

Happy winter solstice to you too!

Glad to hear that you also enjoy the lights. What a wonderful use of technology. Yeah, it looks even better en masse!

Are you getting a white Christmas?

They reckon 25'C (77'F) and 90% chance of a late shower here (an excellent present if ever there were one) for the 25th.

Thought you may enjoy the craziness of this: Australia's Christmas temperature extremes

Imagine 42'C (107.6'F) on Christmas day... I'd skip any roast meat that day for sure...

Alligators and palm trees! Too funny. The whole day is just weird here. Heavy meals and alcohol during hot summers just doesn't quite the mustard as they say.

Glad to hear that you are having a mild winter though.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

Ahh, it all makes sense now. I reckon blogger posts comments to whatever blog the individual commenter clicks on.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Klark,

Well, what can we say, it is a gift! hehe!

You are saved from eating your Green Wizard hat as it is a native dandelion. As an interesting side note, I have far more of the introduced dandelions. They're great bee food at this time of year.

Great to hear about your wood stove. Very impressive stuff. Are you finding that it is enough to heat the house or are you zoning your house to conserve heat? How is the insulation going? You'll be thinking about a wood shed soon...

I find the wood box here is enough to heat the entire house, cook and provide hot water. I seriously wasted my money putting in hydronic radiators.

Good to hear of your excellent work. I hope the rain is favourable to your endeavours!

How good are the lights!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi everyone,

Oh yeah, the mystery borage plant was positively identified by Michel who is a long time resident of this area, ultra keen gardener, seed saver and all round knowledgeable bloke.

It is ta-da: Anchusa Sempervirens



orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

Happy Christmas/Winter solstice (take your pick)to everyone.

I also thought huh that's a dandelion.

I eat the roots of silverweed (potentilla anserine). This has been a food since prehistoric times. I was told that it tastes like parsnip; no it doesn't, it has no taste at all. However it has an interesting crunch.

I love reading your 'How I got here'. People have so often had far more interesting lives than one could guess at.

Had a ghastly trip into town yesterday for such things as milk and cream. I don't drive anymore and reliant on son. His truck is out of action and he was out of animal feed. So had to hire a van before his animals eat him. He needs to move the boar which will at least be easy due to hunger.

Town was hopelessly crowded. Thank goodness that was my last trip there this year.

No lights here just glorious dark woodland. To be truthful: now that the leaves are off the trees, there are distant lights in one direction.

You asked about how my winter is. It is warm and wet so far 12C today which is warm for this time of year.


LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Cathy - Something else we have in common. I lived in S. CA for 3 or 4 years in the early 70s. For an adventure, not an education. I lived mostly in Orange County and Long Beach. Managed Walden Book stores, etc. Posted comment to your first chapter on your other blog. Lew

Yo, Chris; Let's see ... "Fire Monks; Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara" by Busch. I thought it a ripping good yarn. After lots of fire preparation, the Zen retreat is under mandatory evacuation. Halfway out on the only road in or out, 5 monks turn back. Useful to you're situation? Well, there might be a detail or two in there that might make all the difference. As the head monk said "He noticed a familiar nagging feeling that no matter what he did, it wouldn't be enough." Odd bits that jumped out at me: learn the lingo of the fire fighters; figure out the hierarchy of the "official" firefighters, etc.

Don't see anything else from the "lost" post, all that important. Oh, the stray dog? Maybe not my problem, anymore. Saw him (or her) chasing a small deer across a pasture, some distance away.

"Turned the air blue" = swearing.

Yeah, Queen Ann's Lace can be invasive. Seeds can be used for birth control, according to some old herbals. You can tell the difference, because the QAL has one small red spot in the middle of the blossom. Wild carrot, doesn't. I think. Good to keep in mind if you're starving to death.

Cookies turned out ok, I think. Hard to judge one's own cooking. Of course, I fooled about with the recipe. Just out of the blue, I decided to cube up the apple and put it in salt water ... no salt in the recipe, and it wouldn't discolor. Don't know where that came floating in from. No raisins! But I had some dried cranberries. I popped them in the microwave with some water, to plump them up. Don't know why. Just seemed like the thing to do. Decided to add the zest from an orange. And, squeezed in a bit of the juice. Again, don't know why. Festive for the holiday? Was it enough? Can I even taste it? Had to add more flour. And, that's how my mind works when I "fool with a recipe." It still seems to have something ... missing. But that might be just a dulled taster from all the commercial stuff I've eaten over the years.

No anatomically correct ginger bread men and women this year :-). Well, you said you didn't mind a bit of naughtiness :-). Actually, sugar cookie dough works better. Nice shading. And, actually, I haven't made said cookies since the 70s. It was a great holiday party I threw. Lots of people in the kitchen making up the cookies. Almost like a party game.

Greenhouses - Make sure you get enough height in it. years ago, I watered a couple of times a week out at an organic garden. I don't know how the owner could stand it. He was 6'4", and it bothered my back. I also went to an estate sale once and there was a small green house with an odd l___l brick structure along one side. It was full of horse manure and used to keep the greenhouse warm.

Check out the English Pineapple pits.

There's a link by the picture to "The Lost Gardens of Heligan." A ripping good story about two fellows who brought back an elaborate country house Edwardian garden. Also a book :-). I am also enjoying "Brother Gardeners" by Wulf. Lew

Cathy McGuire said...

Speaking of baking/preserving, I just made the first apple pie in years - mostly "from scratch" but I did use up some cinnamon apple rings that I'd preserved last year... that I just didn't get around to snacking on.

@Lewis - Dang! Google says there's no comment pending or in spam - it must have vanished. :-( I'm getting really fed up with Google... I had been hoping for feedback and it seems like Google is thwarting that. If you saved your comment anywhere (I always cut/paste what I've written because Google eats it up here, on JMG's and my blog)you can email it at cathy AT cathymcguire DOT com. Thanks for reading the chapter, in any case!
I lived in Orange County, too - in town of Orange(but of course, they'd already cut down all the orange trees to make the city). went to college at CSUF. I'm not a desert-type person, so it was a bit rough. This rainy climate works for me! :-)

Angus Wallace said...

Hi Chris,

Had to laugh (a bit ruefully) at the electric roller door. Can totally identify with that sort of mistake -- the "I can't believe I didn't think of that before" type. But the thing is, it's so hard to completely think through a project and identify every possible error. The other day I wanted to pump water from one tank into another -- they were equilibrated, and I wanted to put all the water into one of them -- I _just_ remembered to turn off their connection (to prevent them re-equilibrating as I pumped water from one to the other)... For me, I find a great sanity-check is to chat through my plans with someone else (or even just by myself if no one else is available ;-)

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Happy Christmas / Winter Solstice / Summer Solstice too!

Yeah, it is a dandelion, but a local species. It is really big too compared to the introduced ones, leaves, flowers, tubers. They just do it bigger (and with multiple tubers). Incidentally, I thought you might get a laugh out of the fact that a member of the dandelion species was the equivalent of the potato for millennia here!

Thanks for the reference. Silver weed tubers sound like a very practical food.

Parsnips can be an acquired taste, I reckon they get a bit bitter if left too long after lifting from the ground. I fed a whole lot of excess carrots (with leaves and tubers) to the chickens today and they seem pretty happy with them.

Many thanks. It's been fun.

Too true, the boar would be the one to watch out for - don't drift off to sleep when he's hungry!

I bring feed in here for the chickens about once a month too, but am building up lots of plants that they like to eat and then propagating them. The anchusa is one of them.

Dark skies are nice for star gazing though and winters always produce the best skies. It is dark here at night too, although there is some lights from the town of Gisborne which is about 10km (6m) away. Plus I can see the trains whizzing past on the train line very far away. No sound though.

Once a year the town puts on a fire works display which is nice to watch from afar.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Many thanks for the review. Interestingly, they can't force evacuations here although in the state to the north of here, the police can. Such things put the police in unnecessary danger I reckon.

Fortunately, there are two options north and two the south although fallen trees can always block access. I'll try to track down a copy. Do you get fires up your way?

Well, I hope the dog is OK? It would have to be a very big, agile and intelligent dog to drop a deer.

Actually I noticed that too. It is amazing how much information on herbal medicinal applications has been lost. Yeah, well they do sort of look the same! Plant identification is hard stuff. I'm having to learn the names and uses of so many plants, sometimes I look at one and go: "I don't know who or what you are and how you even got there". Although that could be early onset dementia too. hehe! ;-)!

You're an artist in the kitchen! So much of cooking is like that, in that you know deep down what the basics of the ingredients are and how they work together. Hey, I use lemon juice instead of salt to stop fruit discolouring. But then there are a lot of lemons growing here. Nice to hear that the cookies turned out well. I trust they were graciously received?

Just reminded me. I made some strawberry jam last year and didn't add enough lemon juice so that the jam tastes good, but has an unusual brown / grey colour. Definitely not one to give to visitors. I added much more lemon juice this year and the stuff is almost glowing with red! Oh well.

Too funny about the ginger cookies, but of course, you have to be careful about who gets those. Lots of fun. I'd like to keep it mostly family friendly here though!

Sometimes visitors get impromptu cooking lessons here - especially if they make the mistake of banging on too much about how hard such and such is to cook. Usually it is a lot of fun.

Yeah, good advice about the greenhouse. I made that particular error with the strawberry enclosure here and I have to bend over when walking around in there. I mark it up as a work in progress.

I'm getting a sense of deja vu as I was reading about pineapple pits somewhere before our recent discussion. They were selling the pineapple plants here as pot plants. Weird stuff.

Headed into the big smoke tonight to pickup up my new 2hp - second hand - chipper. Busting to give it a go, but nighttime is probably not a smart move for such things. It was funny how much was closed on Christmas eve, still I managed to get a good cappuccino, a proper Italian pasta (spaghetti rustica with olives, chilli flakes, anchovies and small baked potatoes - it had a bit too much olive oil for my liking) and a desert of frozen yoghurt. It is an exciting life, but it is best not to waste a trip into the big smoke.

I don't usually eat that much olive oil, so am thinking of heading outside to get some spearmint leaves to settle the stomach.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

Good for you. A proper apple pie is a rare treat! Cinnamon goes so well with apples too.

The apples are swelling on the trees here as we speak and it looks as though they may be early this year. It all depends on how much rain / sun they get between now and March. Who knows?

Sorry to hear about your problems with blogger. I only lose the occasional comment, but different internet browsers are setup differently and some require two clicks on the Publish button for some reason.

PS: I'm going to try and read your first chapter over the next few days.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Angus,

Yeah too true! It is really hard to know when things go wrong until they do though. hehe!

Moving water around is really complex as are water systems generally. Two summers ago when it didn't rain for almost five months between October and February, tested every water system here. I eventually got down to 25,000L left and I'd probably need 10,000L to 20,000L to fight off any bushfires which fortunately didn't happen. I made a lot of changes after that summer for sure.

Your water story, so easy to do! I hear you.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

You posted to last weeks blog, but I'll keep the replies in the current week.

Many thanks for the link to the yam daisy. That one is lanceolata - whereas the species in this range is given as microseris sp3 - whatever that means. Sorry, you've now hit the limit of my knowledge.

What I do know, is that plantspirations which is the website that you linked too is just over the hills and not too far away in Bacchus Marsh and they are awesome as a seedling nursery. I can't speak highly enough of them. Bacchus Marsh is an interesting place as it has two rivers intersecting and a whole lot of market gardens. Unfortunately it has a truly stupendously large sand mine as well as a black coal open cut mine. Oh yeah, I believe they've just approved another coal mine there too but who knows what will happen now that coal prices have dropped. Too bad about the market gardens and orchards there...

I can't wait to harvest them too as they're meant to be quite good eating, but I may have to replant them as I have not many specimens. I didn't know that the seedling farm sold them too and will investigate once late March rolls around and I can plant again (although I did put in a penstemon and salvia the other day).

How do the potatoes go with the wet/cold up your way? The more root crops you get into your heavy soil, the more it will break up (especially if you let them break down or multiply in the soil).



thecrowandsheep said...

Greer's new blog, the well of galabes, is going strong. If you want a second name for your blog, can we recommend "the wall of wallabies"?

Stacey Armstrong said...

Heya Chris,

Hope you are setting aside a little time for feasting this week. Six White Boomers is in the Holiday music playlist here. My partner prefers comedy to sentiment at least half the time.

Funnily enough I finished my undergraduate degree in seven years as I took the work as you go approach to my studies too in order to avoid debt. I definitely sacrificed the more social aspects of the "undergraduate experience." It suited my temperament better anyway as I have a kind of earnestness that isn't really fashionable.

Your new shed looks like it has always been there! It's good that you are keeping such a good photographic record of your work, you will be able to better celebrate a yearly or multi-year set of accomplishments ( and mistakes!).

@Lew thanks for the book reference over at the ADR. I have it arriving here through our books by mail program. The island where I live was promised a bricks and mortar branch at one point and when that didn't happen we were offered unlimited mail service for the larger Vancouver Island Regional Library... This is a luxury that surely will not last.

@Lew and @Chris your book recommendations are rippling out! Both Mom's received a neat bundle of Annie Hawes' work to mark the season.

I have been meaning to ask about your soap making adventures. Where did you start?

Best. Stacey

artinnature said...

Hi Chris - Dandelions seem to have followed us humans everywhere. I've been wanting to try making tea ("coffee") from the roasted roots, anyone here tried it, liked it?

Our house is 800 square feet (74.3 square meters) and is easily overheated by this too large stove. I bartered gardening work for the stove, probably wouldn't have bought a new one this large. I installed the stove almost exactly in the center of the house.
The floor plan is fairly open and the heat circulates fairly well, definitely no zoning. Actually we're cutting vents high in the walls to improve passive convection into other rooms. Did one into the kitchen (works great) and will do two more into the bedroom and study.

Insulation will have to wait, next on the list is rebuilding our front and rear decks. Also, I have to haul the forced air furnace out of the attic along with some scary old vermiculite before insulating. The furnace is sitting horizontal right on top of the ceiling joists where 18" of insulation should be. So that means a different backup heating system, and some electrical updating...a whole chain of things to do first. I hate forced air and would like hydronic...could you tell me a bit about your hydronic radiators? I think a tankless water heater and 2 or 3 small wall mounted panel radiators away from the stove would be great.

Do you always cook on your wood burner? How does that work in summer? Could you post some photos of your stoves cooking surface, oven and hot water system?

You're right about the woodshed. I've been redesigning the back garden (on computer) to squeeze in a 12'x12' polycarbonate roofed structure. It's very hard for me to give up gardening space for this but I love heating with wood just as much as gardening so it has to happen.

This may interest a serious permie like you: Along with the redesign for the woodshed, I found a way to integrate a meandering swale from my southeast rain barrel to the pond in the SE corner. I'm really excited about this project. There's no way I'll ever have enough storage for the winter rains. Rather than rout the overflow into the city sewer, which is what's happening now, I can store water in the soil and the pond. The pond is adjacent to the stream but not connected. Once the swale is functioning it's very possible that the pond may overflow in the winter. In that case I'll build an overflow swale into the stream.

Where and how big is your woodshed? I don't remember seeing any photos.

One other favor Chris - We love toasted muesli and had it almost every day for breakfast while on holiday in New Zealand in 2006. We haven't been able to find good muesli here so we substitute granola at home. Could you share your recipe, toasting instructions and how it is served?

Cheers & happy holidays from Cascadia - Klark

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi crowandsheep,

Too funny! Mate, I'll tell ya, it can be wall to wall wallabies out there at night. They love the herbage growing over the worm farm sewerage trenches. Not sure why...

Actually, a fox has moved onto the farm too (more on this next week). The vixen screeching is something else. Certainly raises the hairs on your head.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

Thanks, yeah there'll be a bit of feasting today. How is your Christmas going?

Too funny. It's an albino with a joey too! Cool. Hey as a fun fact, Marble Bar is a reference to Australia's hottest town.

Earnestness is an excellent personal attribute, although as you say - not exactly fashionable. I mostly try to work first and play later. It makes for a more relaxing life.

hehe! The old school galvanised iron is really strong stuff and it looks great too. There's plenty of both. The path of the trailblazer is littered with both successful and unsuccessful projects.

We make an olive oil soap - which is a proper old school soap as distinct from a detergent. Good stuff, although it is an easy but not a quick process. I've just checked with the editor and we do indeed have to make a batch soon. Stay tuned!



LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Inge - I also made a trip to my "Little Smoke", today. Madness, madness, all was madness. :-) . Actually, not to bad, now that's it's all over. I went early.

Thanks for the recommendation of the book website. Looks like a good one. It's on my list of sites to check from time to time. It was interesting to see what he had to say about Dickens. I recently read a new doorstop of a biography about him.

Lights. Being the semi-hermit that I am, my place often seems pleasantly isolated. But, this time of the year, with the leaves off the trees, it really becomes apparent how many people there are, about.

@Cathy - One night I spent a week in Orange, CA.
:-). Somewhere I read that the names of houseing developments are directly to related to what used to be there. "Deer Run" with no deer, anymore. "Oak Grove" with not an oak to be seen.

@Stacey - As Chris can tell you, I'm a menace when it comes to book recommendations. :-). I tend to forget other people have lives :-). Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Klark,

It wouldn't surprise me if the species here were selectively bred over many millennia of human occupation. The Aboriginals were outstanding gardeners - in fact they were so good, when Europeans turned up, they had no idea that is what was going on. I haven't tried that, but I grow a lot of chicory here which is in flower at the moment and that is reputedly a better bet.

That is a really clever idea about circulating the heat from the wood box around the house and oh yeah, over that space the wood heater would be a ripper heat source.

An excellent trade for the wood stove!

Insulation is well worth the time. The winters here are over 90% humidity for months on end, but still the glass wool batts under the floor show no signs of trapping the moisture against the timber. I've had to increase the air flow under the floor though in the past few years or so.

Walls and ceiling insulation is well worth the time too. Go hard, the more the better. The house here has a double layer of timber on the external walls so that I could stuff in 2.5x the normal amount of insulation in it. Well worth the hassle.

Moving the furnace is a big job. Hoist or hand crane or pallet trucks may help. Dunno, be careful with your back - you only get one of them!

Yep, the hydronic radiators are connected to a 400L (a bit over 100 gallons) hot water tank which sits in the ceiling (I left a provision to remove it by hoist if needed). During September to the end of May a couple of solar hot water panels keep it toasty warm. They require a pump with a controller to get the water up to the panels.

Over winter or whenever the wood fire runs, there is a 8kW wet back which using a thermosiphon (natural process) heats the water up in the hot water tank. The tank has to sit above (or near to above) the wood stove because if you install a pump and it ever fails the steam pressure could build up and the wet back might pop. The plumber and I tested this by shutting off the valve and did it rock or what!

The hot water for the house comes out of a 18m (about 60ft) copper coil that sits in the hot water tank and the whole thing works like a heat exchanger. The hydronice radiators take the water directly from the hot water tank instead.

It sounds complex and has a few points of failure, but it is fairly simple and reliable in reality.

Cherokee Organics said...

I only cook on the wood stove when it is running over about 7 to 8 months of the year. Other than that I have both and LPG and an electric oven. Sounds like a bit of overkill? I should have bought a larger electric oven originally but didn't have enough faith in the solar power system. I'm planning to rectify that shortly.

The electric oven I do have I can take outside in the shade and cook on hot days so as not to heat the house up. Fresh bread in high summer has a bit of a heat penalty here.

Welcome to the woodshed conundrum - you're in good company as there are a few people here considering that.

The swale and pond sound like a great idea and should give a lot of underground water during summer too. What sort of soil do you have?

Good observation as it doesn't exist yet. The machinery shed is now finished and over the next few weeks, I'll start pegging out and excavating for the wood shed. There'll be more rock walls too!

Poly carbonate would be excellent for the roof, but I've seen a couple of wood sheds here where the pressure from the timber (you'll always want to stack more into the shed) pushes the cladding away from the frame of the shed. So maybe an internal layer and external layer of polycarbonate may do the trick.

I've got a bit of old garage roof metal sheeting which I'm going to use to line the interals of the shed so that the external cladding is protected from that pressure. Dunno.

haha! Too funny. Those canny New Zealanders. They got me onto home made muesli too. Here goes:

3 cups of oats
1 cup of dried pumpkin seeds (good for your health - seriously)
1 cup of sunflower seeds
1 cup of dessicated coconut
1 cup of roasted unsalted peanuts

Mix the lot together in a baking tray. Add 4 tablespoons of honey on top.

Cook for 20 minutes at 150'C (300'F).

Take it out of the oven. Stir the whole lot up and put it back in the oven again for 15 minutes. Keep repeating that until it is cooked well - but not burnt. It should be brown not black.

When it is consistent, turn it out on a bench to cool off. Hey presto done! No sugar other than the honey and no salt. You may need to break up the mix again once it is cool as the honey will make it solid. Keep in an airtight container once it has cooled down.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Have a good Christmas and I'll salute you with a limoncello.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Not too worried about fire, here. In summer we do have fires, usually along roads from a tossed cigarette. But the fire departments around get right on them and they don't seem to do much damage. Across the pasture, through the woods and down the hill is a county highway. I do worry that sometime a fire may start down there and sweep up the hill. One thing positive about cell phones and technology ... with most people carrying them, fires get reported very quickly.

Such an odd thing happened. My friend Mike, from Seattle, maybe visits once a year. On his last visit, not far from here he saw a flaming branch on some wires. He called me, I called the fire department and it was put out in short order. I noticed the County came and really cut back the woods from that spot.

I don't think they can make you evacuate here, but they'll scare the heck out of you. Such as, asking for the contact information for your next of kin and where to find your dental records. What they can do is block the road so you can't get back in if you leave.

Plant identification is sometimes a mystery to me, too. So far, I've been lucky figuring out what's growing around here. One final mystery is if I have a Sweet William or is it Angelica? :-).

Well, since lemons don't grow on trees around here :-) , I'll stick with salt. A lot less expensive in this part of the world.

Funny about pineapples. Here, in colonial times (1700s) pineapples were a symbol of hospitality. Even though they were very rare. The motif was used on everything from furniture to architecture.

The book "Brother Gardeners" just got very exciting (well, to me because of this blog.) Before staggering off to bed, I read a couple of paragraphs into the next chapter "Ye Who O'er Southern Oceans Wander" Always dangerous to read in a couple of paragraphs. So late nights are made.

I ran across this "...added a secret instruction to the "Endeavor's" brief: to find this elusive continent of "Terra Australis Incognita" and to return with information about its soil and plants ..." Ohhhh! They're going to discover Australia! Showing superhuman discipline, (and yawning my head off) I set the book aside.

My Christmas gift to me: 5.3oz of good English Stilton cheese ... $10. Also picked up 7 oz of good strong English cheddar for $4. A pineapple in colonial America probably wouldn't have cost as much! Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Re: Woodsheds. I seem to remember from "Fire Monks" that one of their buildings (the lumber store?) burst into flames a few days after the fire swept through. Smoldering roots underground ignited it. Might want to think about trenching around vulnerable buildings. Lew

PS: And if I get around to it, I'll eat a peanut butter cookie, for you :-). Can't fool much with that recipe. A nice hard chocolate glaze might be nice?

artinnature said...

Thanks for the muesli recipe Chris, can't wait to try it.

The original soil here (now under 1-2 meters of fill except for a 4 meter wide strip along the stream) is rich, black, organic laden silty loam. The fill is a variety of things but mostly gravelly clay-loam. Very water retentive compared the beach sand at our last garden...and the water table is high. the pond has 10" of water in it today, and all I did was dig a hole. It dried up last summer though. This summer?...we'll see!

News flash: I just talked to my neighbor, his profession is bee swarm capture and hornet/wasp removal, and he offered to place two bee hives in my garden come spring! I have to find a place in my plan, he said they like mostly sun, we don't get nearly as hot in Cascadia as you do there.

Cheers - Klark

SLClaire said...

Hi again Chris,

It was a beautiful Christmas here as far as I was concerned - not a bit of snow, but sunny all day long with a high of 54F / 12C compared to the normal high of 40F / 4C. The sunniness was the best part however, because we have not had sunshine all day for about the last month and have had only a few days with any sunshine at all. I sat on the back deck for awhile near sunset, listening to birds. Eventually I heard a soft chewing noise and looked down and to the right, where the three stairs from the deck end at the yard. Right there was a large rabbit munching on musk strawberry leaves. We looked at each other, then the rabbit went back to its meal. I think we both enjoyed the brief companionship. A very happy New Year to you!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Glad to hear that from your part of the globe and both things are true here too - although the wind and low humidity has the unfortunate energy to propel the fires here.

Power-lines are a bit of a drama here too. Your mate was wise to call you. Sometimes here, it gets so hot and the demand on the system is so high (air conditioning) that the metal in the lines expands and then both the current and heat possibly may set off a fire in the vegetation. The power companies spend a lot of time and energy on clearing vegetation away from the power lines here.

Unfortunately, I witnessed firsthand how it all works because one winter I accidentally dropped a tree onto a power-line. Ooops! That was an expensive error as they made me pay for the fix up...

Wow, that is an effective strategy. Those words may scare me. Actually the road blocks are put up in place because the end result is potentially a crime scene and crims have also been known in the past to stash bodies in such areas...

Yeah, plant identification is really hard because like your Queens Anne Lace example is so close to carrots, it becomes hard to tell after a while. I grow Angelica here and it looks very dark green and is ultra hardy. It has just set seed by the way. Sometimes, I have no idea what the plant is or why it is even there at a particular point on the farm, although usage is a good way to remember them all. Who knows what we're all missing out on though...

Fair enough, although being about 60km inland from the coast, I often wonder about salt. Sugar is the easy one. Salt not so much. It is handy stuff. I'm surprised that lemons don't grow in your area. I once spotted a bush lemon growing on an exposed ridge in the Otway ranges (in the Otawys cottage garden and herb farm) to the SW of here and that place is far colder and wetter than here. Bush lemons are very tangy, but exceptionally thorny and slow growing. I've got two of them here and they are slow to grow...

One for the rich, I suppose. Pineapples here have been battered by cyclones up north in recent years so I stopped buying them a few years ago as they were very green and tasteless. Still, the bruised ones are too over ripe for my liking. It is very hard for the growers to transport them several thousand kilometres south...

As a fun note, I once fed the chickens so much pineapple that their eggs started having a pineapple flavour...

You've left me hanging in suspense! What did they discover on their journeys?

Incidentally few believed the upright Captain Cook when he came back to England with kangaroo and wallaby hides. He was a methodical scientist though and all round clever bloke.

Good to see that you are indulging your passion for Stilton! Duly noted and I thoroughly approve! Down here, I picked up a second hand chipper for $55. Thus are good Christmases made. hehe!

Yeah, tree roots can smoulder under ground here for months. Rubbish pits have been known to also do this. An open cut coal mine did that trick last year too. I remember a few years back that a peat bog in the Otways was also smouldering and a couple on push bikes stepped into it without knowing... Not good as their runners burnt to their feet.

Yes, go hard on the chocolate glaze. Excellent work!

I had a good Christmas although I must confess to a touch of over indulgence so I'm in for an early night this evening. I believe this put me squarely in the feather weight category... One does what they can though. It's a tough job but someone must do it!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Klark,

Glad to hear that you will try the muesli recipe. It is really good stuff and once you've made your own, you won't buy it at the shops ever again and the bought ones will start tasting too sweet and salty!

I seriously did get the idea from a NZ dude. He goes by the name of Te Radar and is exceptionally bright, entertaining and very quirky. He once moved onto a paddock out of Auckland for a couple of months to see whether he could make a go of living off the land, whilst living in a tent. On a serious note, he is an ex-lawyer (I believe) who also does serious political commentary.

Wow, that is quite a lot of deep rich black silty loam. You are in a good paddock as they say here. Black silty loam is excellent as you can grow most plants in it, plus it has exceptional drainage properties and lots of biology which will work it's way into your gravelly clay. Nice choice!

Ahh well, that is sort of how swales, billabongs, ditches work. On experimentation here I reckon they work well for deep rooted perennial plants, but the annuals still need watering during high summer. Your water table is really high though which is an advantage.

I've been thinking about such things today as I'm wondering about the two pecan trees here which whilst being heat hardy, they require adequate soil moisture until their tap roots have been established. Dunno.

I appreciate hearing about your work as it is really good stuff and I look forward to seeing some photos of your pond and swale. Have you thought about the location of your wood shed? I'll bet your plans keep changing as you learn more and more about your area!

Very nice. What a great opportunity. Don't put the hives near the back door though as they can be quite active. A mate of mine tried that and it was hard getting into their back garden after that without being stung...



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

You've described the perfect winters day. I assume the lack of sunshine is due to heavy cloud cover?

It is lovely to get a feel for the seasons and nature as they can bring such unexpected surprises. Sitting quietly and immersing yourself is the best way of all. Good luck to your rabbit and it never ceases to surprise me that if you feed them, they will come.

Over Christmas I visited the most amazing place. It was like nature, but turbo charged. Interesting stuff.

Happy Christmas / Winter Solstice to you too!



orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

It has turned cold here. I woke to a pink sky and white frost on the ground.

Stumpy looks incredibly furry to me and has a fox's face. Are you sure she isn't a cross between the two?!


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

A long time ago here they used to say: "Pink sky in the morning, shepherds warning. Pink sky at night, shepherds delight."

It is funny how the coldest (in your case) and the hottest (in my case) weather occurs after the solstice.

Stumpy has a luscious coat because she's fed on compost fed plants. She is slier than a fox too and I spotted a pear tree that her ilk had been supping on yesterday. It is usually hard to know what goes on in her head, but the photo really captured the "annoyed" phase well.

PS: I hope the badgers are well too.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; "Red sky at morning, sailor taking warning. Red sky at night, sailor's delight."

"What did they discover on their journey?" Well, Australia, of course! :-). I think I need to go back and reread Robert Hughes' "Fatal Shore." Read it years ago and the only detail I can remember is the poor sod they whipped to death because he couldn't stop stealing tobacco. Hughes also wrote a lot on art. Read some of his books and used to enjoy his critiques in Time magazine. A couple of years ago, I saw a documentary on the ship "Lady Juliana." "Voyage of the Courtesans." You probably know that that was the first ship full of rather naughty women sent out to Australia. In a backhanded way, the American Revolution helped settle Australia. America couldn't be used at that time as a dumping ground for convicts and political and religious rebels.

Not so much Captain Cook as the botanists he took with him. It's kine of hard to explain what "Brother Gardeners" is all about, but it's about a network of men in the 1700s (mostly in America and England) who traded, promoted and propagated plants from all over the world. Making England the leading "garden" country. But they also had an eye to Empire.

We grow no citrus at all in the Pacific Northwest. Not even on the "dry" side of the mountains. Pineapples are one of those things that I'm not all that fond of. Another case of "sure I'll eat it if you put it in front of me, but there are so many other things I'd rather eat."

Well, my 11 chocks ate 50 pounds of feed in eleven days. I've got to grow something this year to offset that amount of feed. I noticed you mentioned anchusa semperioens over on ADR. I'll look into it. There are long lists on the Net of plants for chickens, but it's all rather mind boggling.

Well, it was a nice Christmas, for me. All the animals got some sort of "treat." I watched "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" and "The Hundred Foot Journey." A "food" movie with Helen Mirren. Very good. So was the book that I read last year. Made those peanut butter cookies and discovered that when they don't look quit done on the top, they are burning on the bottom :-).

Opened my package from Idaho. A stuffed bear. Many kinds of chocolate. That I ODed on. Todays fare will be very bland. And, tea. Some of the wonderful Bergamot Earl Grey my store doesn't carry anymore .. I guess I can say it's imported from Exotic Idaho. :-). And, some Chamomile. Which I quit like and know I can grow here.

Good ol' American marketing. I noticed the Chamomile is marked "Caffeine Free." Not that it has any caffeine in it to begin with. Kind of like our gluten free craze. The oddest things are marked as such. Saw some vinegar the other day marked "gluten free." :-). Lew

Cathy McGuire said...

Glad to hear everyone had a good Christmas. I went up to visit friends in Portland and was very glad the weather was good (too often this time of year is solid rain or worse - ice). My Christmas dinner was a ham sandwich, though - I visited two friends and missed their mealtimes (neither was fancy, so I didn't miss much). That has got to be my strangest Christmas dinner. They loved the pie, though! Today I worked more on the novel (use the days that wont' have interruptions 'cause everyone else is on holiday ;-)) - for me it's more like oil painting than watercolor: I keep layering detail on, and over-painting what doesn't fit anymore. ;-) It was sunny here, and I probably should have been doing some yard work (I did at least clean out the rabbit cages) - but it takes a while to "get into" the story, so I am loathe to switch gears.

LOL,Lew, about the "caffeine free" and "gluten free" labels - I've noticed that kind of craziness, too. Makes me wonder what the average person knows about the food they're eating - probably much less than I (a gardener) knows.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hey Lewis,

That red sky at night thing can be a bit weird here during summer due to smoke haze from bushfires. You really get the most amazing red / burnt orange sunsets sometimes. The weird thing is that a big bushfire one year leads to a wetter summer the next year - something to do with smoke particles in the atmosphere I've been told. Volcanoes do the same thing too.

Robert Hughes, The Fatal shore - haha! That is no sneaky book recommendation on your part as I own that book and have read it twice. What an outstanding work of history. No stone was left unturned either. It was roundly lambasted here as I reckon it cut a bit too close to the truth for many intellectuals comfort levels. As I read the book, I thought to myself that the book documented human nature very well and so was probably a true account. Please do re-read it as we'll have a future fascinating discussion about the ins and outs of the convict era here. What a strange experiment this country is!

The seal colony I wrote to you about a few weeks back is very close to Lady Julia Island. I visited the ruins of a female factory in Tasmania many years ago. Such things went on here...

The lead botanist was one Sir Joseph Banks who also happened to be something of an artist too - as they probably had to be in those days. What was unfortunate for the First Fleet (of convicts, soldiers and settlers) was that Captain Cook and co visited Botany Bay during a damp summer, whilst the First Fleet arrived during a drought. They almost starved you know and upon landing sent out ships to the nearby colonies to trade for provisions? The settlement had to be moved to a more reliable source of fresh water which is now Sydney harbour. many of the assorted settlers refused to even eat the fish which were caught in the harbour...

Fair enough. I bet they could grow citrus on the interface between the wet and dry areas? Dunno. Local knowledge is good, but they used to reckon that citrus wouldn't grow up here in this mountain range either - so who knows? They're certainly wrong in that supposition.

Yeah, I left a link for the plants in the comments here. If you can track it down it is one heck of a good weed and I have hundreds of them growing here - for the benefit of the fruit trees and chooks.

Excellent. Did Beau get a beef jerky and was the cat eying it off? Sometimes dried pigs ears make great dog treats too.

Was that the original Planet of the Apes movie or the remake? I love the end scene where they come across the Statue of Liberty at a funny angle poking out of the sand. Chilling stuff. For some strange reason I recall reading the comic version as a child - but I certainly recall seeing the films too.

Well done with the chocolate. I o'd on turkey and bombe alaska. So much meringue. One can valiantly battle through piles of dessert only to find there is more and then feel completely inadequate to the task at hand. A sad tale! Actually you rarely see turkey here and that was the best turkey I'd ever eaten - very moist, but well cooked at the same time.

It is almost too much for a mostly vegetarian (mmm turkey - yum!)

Chamomile is like a weed. I grow the German variety here and it takes so little effort, but I also enjoy the taste of the tea and it is great when you are feeling a bit cold or chilly. It has a mild sedative affect too.

Yeah, that crazy stuff happens over here too. Most people have no idea. Of course eating a big lump of wheat product is going to make you tired because your system needs to use a bit of energy to process it...

Too funny!

I'm on muesli, bread and salads for a few days to recover from the serious over indulgence. At least it is cherry season here which is a serious highlight for me!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

I'm starting to lose track of what day it is with all of the holiday stuff so hopefully I remember to post a new entry on Monday! It just doesn't feel like a Saturday to me today...

I'll bet the ham sandwich was nice though? Glad to hear that they enjoyed the apple pie. I must confess to a serious enjoyment of apple pie. It is good stuff. Do you add cinnamon and/or mixed spices?

Yeah, the funny thing about live stock and animals is that regardless of what day it is, the systems have to be maintained. Bees are the exception as I pretty much leave the hives alone in the first year unless they are looking distressed. I've been going over and rocking the hives to feel the weight of the contents and checking the landing plates from afar recently, but not much else.

Glad to hear that you are working on your novel. I'm about to read chapter 1, whilst I'm supervising the chooks tonight, so I'll have a think about it and let you know over the next day or so.

Sometimes you have to follow your heart in such matters. There are days here where it just doesn't feel right to work, so I'll go and do something else.

Glad to hear that you have all had such nice Christmas weather. Welcome to Christmas Down Under style as that is global warming for you. Actually 12'C would be quite a warm winters day here...



orchidwallis said...

Hello again.

Of course 'summer solstice'. I usually manage to switch the seasons; what I still have trouble with is sun direction on the other side of the planet.

'Red sky at night...'. We have it too, I bet that it arrived with the convicts. We have shepherds for one half and sailors for the other, I can't remember which goes with which.

A wild storm last night, branches have fallen all over the place and intermittent crashes on the roof which kept waking me up. I have an oak overhanging my place which died last summer. It is illegal for me to take down a dead oak without permission! Need to do something about it.


heather said...

Hello all-
My family is back from our very overindulgent holiday visit to the grandparents. Too many toys, too much candy, too much everything... I too am on light rations for the next few days. Actually I always love this time of year, packing away Christmas decorations and planning next Year's adventures. Last night my 6 year old son joked to his big sister, "We've got to put away the Christmas stuff and decorate for New Year's!" Of course, she, much superior at 10, fell for it, scornfully replying, "There aren't any New Year's decorations!" He giggled, "Right! We have to clean the house!" Score one for Mom!

Sadly, the weather is back to dry and sunny here for the extended forecast- sad because this season is our best chance at rain for the year. Cathy and Lew, feel free to send some moisture on over this way. It is cold and crisp here though. I have to go out and see whether we got our first frost last night. Very late this year, as the historical average first frost date is Nov. 15. Global weirding for you.

Re. funny food labeling- while it's no doubt true that most people have no idea where food comes from or what's in it, the odd food labeling (gluten free vinegar, caffeine free herbal tea) also may serve a practical purpose since so many over-manufactured foods contain all sorts of ingredients that have no business being there. I have a friend whose child has celiac disease and she tells me how difficult it is to buy ANY packaged food, even things like lunch meat, without added gluten-containing products. I picked up a package of what I thought was cold-brew berry herbal tea and found that it had added caffeine. :P Just reinforces the importance of seeking out real whole food, since you never know what's being added to a package... ("Natural and artificial favors?" That pretty much could be anything, right?")

Cathy, I did read your chapter 1 while blogger was preventing comments and enjoyed it very much. I'll try to get back over and comment today or tomorrow, since you're hard at work creating the rest of the story. May your muse be with you! And maybe those of your 87 readers who couldn't comment and don't return to do so now will share their thoughts after chapter 2. If they come back for it, that's a comment in itself, right?

Thank you, Chris, for this blog and this virtual salon. An early happy new year to you!

--Heather in CA

Cathy McGuire said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Chris - I've got my fingers crossed that my bees survive this wet weird winter, and I've got plans for improving their living quarters (sadly, it would be easier if they died and I had to clean it all up and do it better - but I still hope they survive!)

On the apple pie, I cheated and used some cinnamon apple rings that I had preserved earlier, trying out a master food preserver recipe; the apples were well soaked in spices. :-)

I hear you on losing track of time. Visiting my friends in the middle of the week makes this week feel all screwy.

I've posted Chapter 2 of my novel on my blog ( and hope that Google allows folks to comment. I'll repost a reminder (if you'll let me) on your Monday post, if you remember it's Monday. ;-) Now I'm gonna get back to writing - the hours just vanish, especially if I'm responding to the various blogs that I read - interesting but it eats up the hours!

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Cathy's apple pie reminded me ... apple pies around here have been $10 (well, $9.99. More of that silly marketing) for the past month. At Thanksgiving, the only pumpkin pie I could find was $8.

We're in for a weather change, here, Sunday night. We may see some snow at the change over. Then, back to a cold spell. Upper 20sF at night.

Banks figures large in "Brother Gardeners." He was quit well to do and affected with botany mania. :-) He even financed quit a bit of that trip. And, refitted a lot of the ship into a botany laboratory.

Odd, that, about the settlers not eating fish. I've read somewhere that the Greenland colonies failed (in part) because the settlers wouldn't take up the eating habits of the natives. Our pilgrims up in New England had horrendous mortality the first couple of years. Jamestown colony down in Virginia, the same. I suppose if we ever get around to colonizing Mars (fat chance) it will be the same.

Well, the interface between the wet and the dry is up in the mountains. So, you have the cold. Nope. No lemons or any other kind of citrus unless it's in a greenhouse.

Oh, Beau got extra weenies (sausages.) Nell, the cat, usually gets dry food (and all the mice and birds she can catch). Christmas she got a can of kitty salmon. The chickens got extra corn and sunflower seeds. The cat and dog steer well clear of each other. I don't know if Beau would intentionally hurt Nell, but he might "play" her to death.

So far there are two "re-boots" of the Planet of the Apes franchise. Unlike the original, that started with the time traveling astronauts, and then filled in the backstory with later films, this one is just taking a time linear route. So, no time traveling astronauts, yet, or big reveals. Also, so far the action is centered around San Francisco.

A lot of people don't like Chamomile because "it tastes like hay!" Well, I love the smell of hay, so I like the Chamomile. And, it has a nice sweet aftertaste. Hmm. A sedative. No wonder I wanted some before bed, last night. Of course, having an old man's bladder, that led to a chilly trip to the bog in the wee small hours :-). Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Yeah, it is all upside down here. I'll bet it confused the early colonists too. It would have been like sending them to Mars! A few did return though.

I wouldn't sleep well with that hanging over my head either. Over here there is an as of right to clear any trees within 10m (30ft) of your house without seeking permission to do so. It isn't much good though if the tree is 50m (150ft) tall.

The vegetation laws generally fail to put trees into their context and treat every situation as the same.

The question that would concern me in your situation is what birds and animals are nesting in the dead tree?

If you can't get a permit to remove the tree and that is what you want to do (I probably would - but trees are very dense and heavy here and will happily squash a house) you can always pull a bit of Machiavelli and threaten to sue the authority if the tree destroys your house and you suffer loss. That'll get their attention.

The funny thing with a lot of laws is that they are imposed from afar and there is little local buy in or assistance should there be any unfortunate consequences...



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Heather,

Too funny. Lots of over indulgence here too. Too much food, but it was sooo good...

Sorry to hear about your dry weather. The weather bureau here reckons there is a 75% chance of an El Nino developing this summer here. It is certainly hot enough already for my taste. Parts of Northern Australia are in very serious drought and there have been quite a few bank foreclosures.


Cherokee Organics said...


Had to swap computers! hehe!

What kind of producer would put caffeine into herbal tea. Very unexpected.

I reckon a lot of the chemicals added to produced food are for the purposes of preserving (also flavouring and colouring - you bet) the resulting product. Preserves are really a method of stopping the biological activities in food which cause it to break down and probably as such are mildly poisonous. Certainly some preservatives give me a hayfever reaction.

Natural can mean anything really - The metal lead is natural after all, but I wouldn't want it in my water... My thinking is, if you eat it, don't look too closely as you may end up making all of your food from scratch.

A mate of mine had a sliced tomato that was sold in a plastic bag and was part of some weird diet thing which I couldn't quite get my head around. Anyway, the tomato must have been several weeks old and it looked OK in the bag - which kind of freaked me out because tomatoes don't normally look fresh more than a few hours when cut into slices.

Oh well.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

The bees don't really like the wet weather. They can handle the cold though easy enough. Hey, the bee guy sold me some pitched roofs which allow condensation to roll out of the top and not drip onto the frames.

Still, your hives are in bee paradise over there so they should be OK as long as they have plenty of stores (but I wouldn't open the hive at your time of year). You can only do your best and there's always next year...

Apple pie, I'm seriously salivating reading about the description. Was it good stuff?

Yeah, it is too easy to lose track of the days. I picked heaps of the more unusual berries today, so today is berry day. I'm told that New Years Eve is sometime next week...

Cheers and please feel free to keep posting links to your story. I'm enjoying it.


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

I hope they're good at that price? Are your pumpkin pies sweet or savoury? I've never eaten one and wondered about it. It is sort of like carrot or zucchini cake in that they're actually a dessert cake rather than a savoury thing.

The lowest denomination here is 5 cents - yet many things are still priced off that basis because they can hit your credit card with the exact amount. Fuel is like that here - I saw today that it was AU$1.169 / litre at the local petrol station (3.8 litres to the gallon).

Banks was quite the intrepid adventurer. Ahh, to be a well financed gentleman of leisure pursuing your interest in the sciences at exotic locales would be quite the life. It didn't work out so well for Captain Cook though as he was killed in the South Pacific on his - I believe - 4th journey. Did you know they moved his cottage out here and placed it in one of the gardens in Melbourne? It is very aesthetic, but I've never visited it - probably should go and check it out...

Yeah, I read that about the Vikings in Greenland too. Apparently Erik the Red had issues with the fish. Jared Diamond made much of this in his book Collapse. I've read a similar thing about the Tasmanian Aboriginals but it sounds like an absurd claim. The mainland tribes most certainly ate fish. There might be something in it. The tribes on Kangaroo Island died out long before the Europeans arrival and that is a massive Island. Maybe there is something in the story? What do you know about it all?

Sad that about the citrus as they are a productive winter fruit tree. Mind you, I'm still left wondering about the possibility of a bush lemon planted along the coast line where the climate is sort of temperate. Dunno really.

Good on Beau, he shows remarkable sense in his choice of companionship! Kitty salmon is a real treat for Nell. Glad to hear it. The dogs here got dried beef jerky which they go feral for. The chooks would enjoy the corn and sunflower seeds. It is plant growth central here so the chooks have a lot of extra stuff to eat anyway.

That sounds like a completely different film altogether to the original which I quite liked. I heard something about the current film being based on the premise that a science experiment on a chimp went horribly wrong? Was that it?

hehe! Yeah it does. I reckon with a bit of compost thrown in for good measure. However, I like the smell of compost and mulch which a lot of people don't.

That's life, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't too. Hey, you could say that you had to get up to check what the coyotes were up to?



orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

The trunk of the oak is only 12ft from my property. We can deal with most things but this will have to be a professional job; they will also deal with getting permission. It will be horribly expensive and complicated by the fact that one can't bring a vehicle in. Hey ho!

No animals or birds in it but it constitutes a necessary route for squirrels. Dead oaks are habitats for masses of other things though, hence the need to keep them standing. I have another huge dead one about 30 ft away which only endangers a greenhouse. That one doesn't matter and has been dead for a number of years.


LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Heather - Oh, I'm a real label / ingredients reader. Most of the time. Sometimes I get caught out. Last year I picked up some sweet relish that was on sale. National brand. When I got home, I noticed it was bottled in China! What, we can't bottle our own sweet pickle relish?

One of my best friends has gone gluten free. Not that she's diagnosed, or anything. She also claims a sensitivity to dairy and olive oil. What-ever. Says she feels better, so more power to her. I've read a bit on our wheat. I think it has more to do with the varieties that are grown now and the way it's processed.

Well, after experiencing the Chamomile and how much I like it, I'm getting a lot more open minded about herbal teas. Up to last week, my attitude was "If it doesn't have caffeine, why bother?" I guess old dogs can learn new tricks :-) .

@Inge - So some prat (new word I learned from Chris) has to come out, look at you're tree and go, "Yup. It's dead." Well, I guess it provides employment for somebody!

We don't have much in the way of vegetation laws, here. Except along streams and rivers. When I moved in here, I cleared out a blackberry thicket close to the house. Much to my surprise, there was an enormous stump in the middle of it. My landlord/neighbor/friend told me it was a maple. It went after it dropped an enormous limb on a car and did quit a bit of damage. Who knew that being a "shade tree mechanic" could involve such danger?

LewisLucanBooks said...

PS: Snow still in the forecast for late tonight and tomorrow morning. Overnight lows during the coming cold snap revised down to lower 20s F. Oh, Boo. Always interesting to check out the tracks in the snow to see what's about when I'm not looking. Lew

heather said...

Quick notes before bath time for the kiddos:

Chris, no pumpkin pie? Ever? I'm horrified. Not that I like it that much myself, except for the smell... It's a sweet custard type- puréed squash, eggs, dairy of some sort, and all the warm spices- cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, &ct. And sugar, of course, if you haven't used sweetened condensed milk for your dairy. Just a bottom crust, and whipped cream (sweetened, of course) on each serving. I don't care for the texture myself, but my kids love it.

Two week old tomatoes in plastic- I think I'd lose weight on that plan too! Ecchhh.

Lewis- I'm a little nutty about labels too. My kids liked canned mandarin oranges in the off season, until I noticed that they too were produced in China. This was particularly offensive since we live in citrus central- our over the fence neighbor is an organic mandarin farmer, and there's a mandarin festival in the town up the hill every year. I tried canning them myself, but they didn't come out right- those membranes around the segments were unpleasant. So I looked into the commercial canning process and found out that the big canneries get around that by dissolving the membranes in some sort of lye solution- not mentioned on the label, needless to say! So now we eat oranges in the winter and other fruit at other times, none of it monkeyed with or from halfway across the world.

Cathy, looking forward to Chapter 2, maybe tonight...! Thanks for sharing.

We did get our first frost the other night, very light, didn't even nip the remaining tomatoes, though my chayote vine at the lower part of the garden did get some leaves blackened. Warmer the next couple of nights due to cloud cover. (Better bundle up, Lew!)I got out in the sunshine this afternoon and cut back some herbs and half the berry vines. Yay, winter afternoons, when you can work outside without cooking!

Cheers, all!

--Heather in CA