Monday, 5 January 2015

Everything including the squeak

Happy New Year everyone!

Waste doesn’t excite me. The farm is located in a remote spot that historically didn’t support much of a human population – so my thinking is that if you have gone to all the effort of bringing materials up here then those materials might as well find some sort of use. The old timers used to say that when they butchered an animal, they used everything including the squeak. That is an excellent rule by which to guide your scrap collections.

Last week I scored some free tomato plants. This posed a problem because I had to then clear out a raised garden bed (which provided great chicken feed – squeak!) so that they could have an area to be planted in. Then a structure had to be built so that those new tomato plants were supported as they grew in height. If the plants were not supported, they would fall over (the technical term is called “lodge”) and any tomato fruit growing at ground level may promote disease. It also allows every ground dwelling insect on the farm to acquire a good taste for ripe tomatoes. I won’t mention that the dogs here also tend to urinate on the plants at ground level in order to mark out their territory. This act alone leaves me with a sort of “yuk” factor whereby I consider the fruit to be unpalatable.

After a bit of delving into the spare pile of steel angles and reinforcing mesh, I produced the following tomato plant supports:

New tomato bed with freebie plants and supporting steel mesh
It is great to be able to delve into your pile of scrap materials and produce something of use (what I call squeaking). However, it would be very easy to keep every single chunk of scrap that you can obtain and there are certainly a few farms around here that resemble junk yards, and am ruthless in that I try to only keep scrap that can be possibly reused in the future. This also means that I also have to store that scrap carefully so that it will be in a condition to be used when called for.

Did I mention that this week at the farm it has been hot here, with two days in a row in excess of 40’C degrees (104’F)? It is worth mentioning that those temperatures are recorded in the shade. In the direct sun it is just so much hotter again. At about 6pm on the 2nd of January my weather station (I truly enjoy this bit of technology) recorded the following temperatures (the house does not have an air conditioning system so the inside temperature is a result of heavy insulation):

Weather records at the farm here on 2nd January 2015
Due to the heat, there have been significant and early grass fires to the west of the farm too, so any people affected by those fires have my sympathies.

The plants on the farm here generally survive on rainfall alone so they are mostly adapted to drought conditions and can usually endure the hot weather far better than I do! The photo below shows the plants at the rear of the house on the very steep cutting after the two hot days:

Plants on steep excavation after two very hot days here in excess of 40’C degrees (104’F)
The great thing about weather forecasting is that you obtain a few days’ notice if such extreme weather events occur. That forecasting allows you to alter the projects that you work on so that you are not working in the full sun for hours on end.

A few weeks ago, I slipped over and fell whilst mowing a patch of herbage above the cantina shed. In the process I hurt both my back and arm. Whilst my body quickly repaired from the fall, the thought occurred to me that it could have been much worse and it probably may happen again in the future. So I had been thinking to myself that a set of stairs leading up into that area above the cantina shed might not be a bad idea.

Making concrete steps is no easy task, however it is a good task to do whilst the weather is so extreme because you can work outside for a few hours, retreat into the house to cool off and then go back outside and build another concrete step later in the day. The concrete steps are also a great use for more squeakers (sorry, I meant scrap items) and I added many small rocks and offcuts of steel reinforcing mesh into them too.

No projects here are ever simple, as I had to remove some healthy plants from the area where the stairs would go. At this time of year I give those plants which were transplanted about a 10% survival rate. However, I consoled myself with the thought that they certainly wouldn’t have survived being concreted over! I then put in the first few steps and added some garden LED bollard lights:

First few steps in the new set of stairs and trench for the LED bollard lights
All of the concrete was mixed by hand in my trusty steel wheelbarrow. Seriously, I keep expecting that old wheelbarrow to fall apart one day because of the punishment it receives here, but it just keeps sort of holding together. In turn, I keep using it. When the wheelbarrow eventually dies, in recognition of how hard it has contributed to the farm, it will be somehow incorporated into the garden as perhaps a succulent raised garden bed. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d appreciate it?

Trusty wheelbarrow in action used to mix concrete for the new steps
Anyway for those that are technically minded, I estimate that by the time the concrete stairs are completed, they would have absorbed: 1 cubic metre (35.3 cubic feet) of sand and aggregate mix (i.e. sand and small stones) as well as 320 kilograms (705 pounds) of concrete mix. That doesn’t include the many countless local rocks and scrap squeaks (sorry, I actually meant to write steel)

Fortunately, after the extreme heat came a cool change with a bit of drizzle and 7mm (0.27 inch) rainfall.

As the week progressed, the concrete stairs kept climbing slowly higher. The first step was deliberately brought forward of the existing rock wall so that rock wall had to be rebuilt too. Additionally a new rock wall was built to the right hand side of the stairs in front of a very large rock – which unfortunately can’t be moved or broken up without some serious explosives!
The concrete stairs are getting higher and the rock walls are being rebuilt
As of today the concrete stairs are now at approximately their half way point and the rock walls have been fully rebuilt. Also during that process I removed any undesirable plants from those garden beds and fed the soil with 1 cubic metre (35.3 cubic feet) of woody mulch and mushroom compost. Yay!
Concrete steps at their half way point
I must have rocks in my head (pun intended) to be working outside in such heat, but in other activities, I also mostly completed the rock wall below the cantina shed. That area has yet to receive a thick layer of the woody mulch and mushroom compost mix, but will over the next few weeks. I’ve already begun planting that area out with cuttings and self-seeded plants. Also this week I noted that the large Echium plant in the photo below had self-seeded and there are now a few plants to move once autumn arrives.
rock wall below the cantina shed is nearing completion
A few weeks ago, I mentioned the necessity to have an area set aside purely for the unloading of materials. In the photo below, the mulched (dark) area is used for that purpose. In the past the rock wall was too low because the original rocks were too small. This week, I removed all of those small rocks, included them as squeak (sorry, I meant fill) into the concrete steps and rebuilt the rock wall with much larger rocks. The larger rocks are useful because they reduce the spillage of materials when they are unloaded.
Area set aside for unloading materials
On a completely different note, a few evenings ago as I was in the orchard on a hot evening supervising the chickens, I startled a very large wombat happily munching on some greens:
Wombat happily munching on some greens
After all of that hard work in the hot summer sun, I felt like a day off today. So, I packed up the car and headed off to visit the Serendip Sanctuary which are manmade wetlands and a haven for many species of birds in the area. There are quite a few wetlands to the south west of the farm and many are of international importance. At this time of year the magpie geese were out in force:
Magpie geese enjoying the conditions at Serendip Sanctuary
I also happened to spot an emu enjoying the herbage growing in a dried up lake bed at the Sanctuary:
Emu enjoying the herbage in a dried up lake bed
How did I get here?

For some reason I am unconcerned with status. When my lady and I married we purchased a house in the - then - cheapest inner city suburb of Melbourne. As it was the recession at the time with over 10% unemployment and we both lived in fear of losing our jobs, the chosen house was a - to put it politely - a bit of a dump. Fortunately, that made it cheap.

The hard lesson that I learned from that experience was that other people are actually concerned about status. They expressed their distaste for our choice of suburb by disdainful and generally mean comments, plus all the usual wrong side of the river sort of rubbish. Some people refused to even cross the main bridge linking Melbourne to the western suburbs as if they'd feared catching some sort of disease in the process. Still, it may well have been fear of that bridge collapsing - well, it's not as if it hadn't already happened during construction of the bridge!

The house was a good timber starter house. The back half was sinking into the local clay. It had no laundry. The toilet was in the back yard. You know the usual stuff that makes a house a good starter house.

Being of a practical mindset and knowing absolutely nothing about houses at all, I decided - yeah I can fix this house and make a few alterations. Possibly it may have been a bit ambitious but slowly through reading books and snooping through construction sites, I learned how to fix the house. I'm not just talking cosmetic stuff either, as at one point I used bottle jacks to lift up the house whilst I crawled around underneath in the mud replacing the worn timber stumps (which are used to keep the house off the ground) with concrete stumps. It was lots of hard work but also lots of fun.

After a few years of this, I sold the house and found that I still had far more to learn, because I lost money in the process. I was really annoyed, but put the experience behind me and moved on.

To be continued...

The temperature outside here at about 9.30pm is 18.5 degrees Celsius (65.3’F). So far this year there has been 7.2mm (0.27 inches) of rainfall. Last years rainfall was 819.4mm (32.25 inches) which is not far from the long term average.


Bogatyr said...

I've experienced 40 degrees in both China and Southern Africa. The former was a nightmare, the latter no problem. What made the difference was the humidity, respectively very high and very low. What's it like with you? In any case, I admire your oomph in getting the hard work done.

Have you encountered this blog, from Danes living off-grid in Sweden? I find it very interesting to compare experiences from opposite ends of the world (not to mention Jason in Cornwall). Sadly, I can't see any chance of ever being able to live this way myself...

Bogatyr said...

Oops, forgot the link:

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

Your place is looking amazing. I winced when I read that you had had a fall. I have lived off grid, indeed off everything, in the past. My absolute first piece of advice is 'don't have an accident'. There is so much talk the talk by people who have no concept as to what is involved in walking the walk. It is extremely hard work and I would consider that health and fitness were essential. I see that Jackie French doesn't think so but I beg to differ from her.

Smaller comments: I believe that 'everything but the squeak' referred to the pig.

Love the wombat.

So you get insects attacking your tomatoes! I don't. When the tomato arrived here, the things that attacked it didn't. I only get fungus and slugs going for them.

The magpie geese were evocative of the Brent geese here at the moment. They arrive every winter from Siberia and are very noisy.

Status: interesting. I have gone in, out, in again and finally out in the course of my life. Hadn't thought about it before but definitely happier when out.

Your previous comment on what your reaction to 48 weeks was i.e. 4 weeks holiday elsewhere; simply indicates a mind that deals with the problems that life presents. We start to look for ways round edicts in childhood. I wonder what the best balance is for a society of people who think for themselves and those who toe the line? Both have to be needed.


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Ah, yes. Farm as junkyard. I'm living in the middle of one. Not of my own making. And you're right about storing it carefully. Most of the stuff around here has been spoiled by the weather.

On a related note, those wheelbarrows. There must be 12-15 scattered about this place. Languishing in the weeds, hiding in the blackberry patches. Yeah, I thought I'd line 3 or 5 up along the driveway and plant them with .. something. Another thought I had was ... well, I've always been interested in carnivorous plants. Which usually require a boggy situation. So, I thought maybe I could sink them to ground level and plant the bog loving plants inside?

I am also unconcerned with status. And, have taken a certain amount of grief and suspicion over that. True friends just write you off as eccentric and don't give it much more thought :-).

James Kunstler posted his predictions for 2015. They are a little hard to spot as he separated them from his weekly post. Which he hasn't done before. If nothing else, his turn of phrase and dark sense of humor make him interesting to read. There is also a podcast with the Archdruid. I haven't listened to it, yet. Always good to hear the true voice of the Master :-). . Lew

Jason Heppenstall said...

Hi Chris.

I just wrote a long rambling comment about the warm winter we're having here, working with concrete and the various projects you are doing.

And then Blogger ate it!

Anyway, good work!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi everyone,

Thanks for all of the wonderful comments. They're a pleasure to read and respond too.

I just wanted to leave a quick note to say that the weather here over the next few days is going into really seriously wacky territory as a tropical monsoon is expected to slowly work its way across the continent and it may rain reasonably heavily - or not. No one is really sure so far.

Rain precious rain - Victoria set for a weekend deluge

Fortunately, the systems here can handle large quantities of rain in short succession, but I've been outside trying to get things done before it hits and am a bit knocked out.

The rain is very good at reducing the bushfire risk in the short to medium term - but who knows how the rest of summer will go?

All being well, I'll have a bit more time tomorrow to respond to comments.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

Yeah, it is a bit like Pompeii! They're not very complacent here about such things as the big wildfires always leave a big cultural scar - at least for a few years or so.

During the Daylesford fires of February 2009, ash rained down in the orchard here and there was a huge smoke cloud rising up above the back of the mountain range even though it was at least 50km (31.25 miles) away from here.

I'll quote Rudyard Kipling: "Gardens are not made by singing 'Oh, how beautiful,' and sitting in the shade." Too funny! Yeah, I wonder where the energy comes from too sometimes. I'll bet your place is looking good too? The work is never done, but here most of it is the infrastructure as the plants really do their own thing. Mind you, I bring in a lot of manures to improve the soils and that ultimately makes that job easier. There is a trailer load of it sitting outside right now.

Nice to hear that you weather has turned normal! I've never seen the chicken water freeze here - certainly, hot water is the way to go!

I can't believe you slipped in a book review! Well done.

I'll catch up on your story too over the days that I'm stuck inside. This is your conscience speaking: Have you updated the next chapter?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Thanks. The ABC website is the government news agency and a lot of the photos are audience submitted. They're something else aren't they? I think the incidence of people and cameras in those sorts of situations is just because the fires cross the paths of a whole lot of people.

Well, it is nice to hear that the land is that fertile. The Aboriginals actually created the serious fertility in the landscape here through their land management actions. I read somewhere that soil carbon at the time of European settlement was something like 22% and that was measured by serious people. Unfortunately the sheep ate most of it and the wool bales were exported - thus went much of our best soils.

The winters here can be quite rainy and humid, but the Aboriginals tended to head off towards the forested lands during such times. They had bark huts and caves and hunting grounds - it was all very sophisticated. Great to hear that the Indian art was so developed - it is a sign of high culture.

Captain Bligh (and in his Governor role) certainly left an impression and strangely enough he was never lynched. Odd that.

Yeah, I would have loved hearing all those colourful stories - that's what makes history - no one wants to hearing some boring rubbish like: "and then I worked at the tax collectors office - federal not state you know - for 40 years."

to be continued tomorrow...

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Well. We just got quit a bit of rain. 13" in the coast (didn't say where.) Depending on who you read, our area got 3", 3.75" or 4+". Take you're pick, it's a lot of water.

In one of our twin cities, Centralia, the city hall took on water. That hadn't happened in memory. Lots of businesses downtown were sandbagging. At least four major roads were closed.

I couldn't help reflecting that if I were still camping out in my store, I would have been sandbagging the front and back door and probably dealing with a leaky ceiling. I used to get a lot of water under the back door at times. Got worse when the city repaved the alley and heightened the elevation a bit.

Well, we're supposed to have three dry days in a row. Sun is shinning. I'm giving it a day to dry out and then will work in the yard.

The chooks were off their game a bit. Between the cold snap and the rain storm, they were off by about 1/2 dozen. No worries. Still got 3.5 dozen.

I worry about that wooded slope behind you're place. In "Fire Monks", they had a lot of problems with flaming logs rolling downhill, when the fire roared through their Zen retreat. Don't know what you'd do about it. Lew

Cathy McGuire said...

Yikes, Chris - I don't know how you work in that heat!! I am not a heat-lover (100% Irish blood - I guess we're just fog/rain folk) and hot days are spent reading and drinking ice tea or lemonade. I'd work early morning and then around dusk - the PNW cools off at night, which is bad for tomatoes but good for people! LOL.

The concrete steps are amazing - I know how much work they are and it's just amazing watching how much work you get done! And neatly (no, my place does not look neat/good/tidy/any of the above) Definitely be careful not to hurt yourself anymore - I've lost track of how many flights of stairs I've fallen down through my life, and once I ran myself over with my car (long story - actually only the door caught me into a backflip) and I think my arthritis and really bad back and neck are a direct result (I keep telling myself I was lucky I got to 59!) - and there's not a lot of heavy physical work one can do with a really bad back... so keep yours healthy! And I'm glad to hear rain is coming your way...

@Lewis - I remember driving up to my cabin at Lake Quinault in the winter and the number of times the highway through Centralia and Chehalis were under water.. that is a serious low-ground area, though it doesn't look it at all. Glad you're a bit higher up now.

Just a computer hint to all: I cut and paste my response into a doc file of some sort before I submit it - that way if Google eats it, I don't have to re-type it. Saves me a lot of torn out hair...

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Man that guy Simon Pegg is awesome. I first saw him in the Shaun of the Dead film which I really enjoyed. It was just a surreal story done so well.

Did you know he plays the role of the engineer in the new Star Trek films? He steals every scene that he is in. Too funny. I've never heard of any series that he was in - what's it like?

Clearing the room via spontaneous karaoke has to rate as some sort of super power? ;-)!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Bogatyr,

The humidity makes a serious difference to just hot it can feel. Also the breeze, cloud cover etc. Still, it's a bit of a knock out regardless and by the time 2pm rolls around and I woke up at dawn to start, I'm beat.

The weather here is really variable because the mountain range sticks out above the surrounding areas, plus there is not much land between here and South America. The winters are very humid and can be over 90% for months on end. They rarely get down to 0'C maybe only on one or two days per year now and snow is getting rarer.

The summer, it all depends where the wind blows from. The hot weather comes from the NW (inland across the deserts) and is mostly hot and dry (<10% humidity is not unusual) whilst sometimes like over the next few days that can also bring tropical storms from the Indian Ocean. The NE winds which are rare tend to bring storms down the east coast and often carry lots of moisture drawn off the Pacific Ocean. The really cold weather comes from the SW winds which blow cool air off the Southern Ocean.

The truth is the only certain thing is that the climate here is uncertain. It really makes it hard for agriculture which is why I try to stress all of the plants here rather than over tending them. Plus I spend a huge amount of time feeding the soil.

Today it was 37'C in the shade and I still put down 2 cubic metres of woody mulch + mushroom compost mix. Trying to catch some of the moisture over the next few days.

You never know where the future may take you? Thanks for the link and I'll check it out later tonight.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Thanks very much. I try to make the place look as nice and neat as possible and I enjoy spending time in it.

That is so true. It happened so quickly and I'm eternally grateful that my leg didn't slide under the mower blades. Actually I did a lot of martial arts when I was younger and they drill you on how to fall. It doesn't help though when there are rocks underneath you though.

That is also true. Part of what I'm doing is to make the infrastructure as simple and long lasting as possible. I'm not sure I could keep up this pace 20 years into the future. Incidentally I also wonder about the likelihood of home insurance 20 years into the future which is another factor. If insurance became a problem, I would have to stay and defend during a bushfire so it is a parallel goal to get everything as simple and resilient as possible.

Well, I have a great respect for Jackie French and she certainly walks the talk - her place is beautiful. I believe she is referring to maintenance rather than implementation of the infrastructure? I've read recently that she is considering what to do in the event of her house being destroyed by bushfire - she had previously relied on her shady established garden (which is awesome to see), but now is not so sure that it is enough.

It might also be worth mentioning that she moved to her farm in the Araleun valley as a young lady with a small child having come from a farming background. Youth can make you shrug off hard work. That is in no sense a criticism as she has done some hard yards.

Yeah, of course! hehe! They used to eat tripe and brains and all sorts of other stuff when I was a child, but well, I'm a mostly vegetarian and I don't see other people enjoying the offal cuts either. I did used to enjoy a steak and kidney pie.

The wombat is very sweet.


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

A few drops of rain are now falling, but there is a whole lot of thunder. Scritchy the boss dog gets a bit scared during thunderstorms and she is skulking around underfoot - a definite trip hazard!

Yeah, the only thing that attacks tomato fruit here when it is in contact with the ground is the invasive Portuguese millipede, which are now declining in numbers as the years go on due to the adaptions of a local nematode. If the tomato plants are kept upright by the reinforcing steel, they're OK, but I have to net them in another month or so to keep the parrots off them. The parrots are the number one nemesis here.

Yeah, the Brent geese are a very close match. I'd read early accounts that birds were very numerous here in wetlands, but with the range of those wetlands reducing... On a positive note, the very large sewage farm for Melbourne has extensive Ramsar listed wetlands: Lake Borrie Wetlands

Unfortunately a borrie has also become a slang word here for humanure.

Good to hear. Chasing status is a losing game as there is no end point and the bar can be lifted at any point without prior warning.

Dysfunctional rules make for dysfunctional behaviour is what I reckon. You can certainly do both, but it often takes a third and mostly unexpected path.

PS: I forgot to ask you what your own house cladding is, given your prior comment about timber houses being considered an anathema in the UK?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

I never suspected that the junkyard was of your making! You have somehow become the lucky recipient of lots of useful stuff.

A few years back there was a farm around here like your description. It even had crane trucks and all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff. I never saw the property go on the market, but someone decided to clean it up and basically over a couple of months the entire farm became spotless. New fences went in and even the house was repainted and new windows fitted. I watched the goings on from a distance in a state of awe! A top job. They were like the cleaning Nazi’s! hehe! They now run horses in the paddocks where once unidentifiable rusting metal objects sat and everything looks really healthy.

That's not a bad idea. As an interesting side note, many of the carnivorous plants here prefer dry feet: Drosera peltata - Tall sundew enjoys the odd insect or fifty. They're very common here in the understory. I remember years ago Venus fly traps were a common novelty carnivorous plant.

That is so true about status and oh yeah, I hear you. Over the years I've had some friends that take my apathy towards such matters as some sort of weird challenge to their own status and that is always annoying, because I'm really truly apathetic about such things - I actually really don't wish to care about that. Unfortunately, my behaviour just drives them on. I haven't quite figured that one out yet! On the other hand it is actually quite cool to be apathetic when you meet people with actual real world status. One day many years ago and in a past life I was introduced to Lord Vesty so in my complete irreverence I said, "G’day. Lovely to meet you, how's it going?". hehe! Too funny. I’d be pretty certain he thought I was an idiot or some such thing and that is how I choose to roll. I really run my own race and set my own goals and don't care very much for such things.

Haha! I did listen to that podcast on your recommendation and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mr Kunstler is very well spoken - and it comes across - but Mr Greer is far more flamboyantly entertaining and insightful. He is the Merlin of our times, I suspect.

I'll check it out and let you know what I think. Thanks for the further recommendation. My reading pile is building up again…



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Jason,

Many thanks for the comment. I really enjoyed your 22 Billion energy slaves blog entry too. Great stuff.

You have to be careful when submitting comments to blogger as it is hungry!

Haha! Too funny. I always hear people saying we mustn't put any more CO2 into the atmosphere or we'll alter the climate by 2'C degrees. It is a joke because it is already near to that outcome here: Bureau of Meteorology annual report reveals daytime maximum temps 1.53'C above long term average.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Any one of those numbers is a humungous amount of water. The funny thing is that from my experience here I reckon water does more damage than drought (excluding bushfires). The energy it releases when big rains dump huge amounts of water in a short period of time can do truly amazing things to a landscape.

How did the books survive the heavy rains? I can't imagine what might have happened to the lower shelves?

Oh yeah. Improved runoff equals just that much more water elsewhere. Seems basic, but people don't get it.

Nice to hear that you have a couple of dry days now. How are the rocks in the chicken pen fairing?

The chickens can be put off the lay by all sorts of things such as loud noises, heavy rain, heat waves. Honestly, they're a touch sensitive... I'm considering purchasing some better laying heritage varieties to add to the chook collective here. What sort of chickens do you have?

Glad to hear that you have a few eggs up your sleeve (so to speak) as I find by late winter the ladies start picking up egg production. It may be very different up your way though.

Nothing to worry about on that score. I removed all trees within dropping distance of the house. An old timer told me that was the way to go and on reflection it was a very insightful observation. I've gone out of my way to meet many of the old timers up this way and they are full of wisdom about living up here. It is just hard to get them to relate that wisdom. Like your neighbour who has sadly passed. I'll bet he knew a thing or two.

You almost have to do some sort of apprenticeship to be sort of useful in living in these sorts of areas. A lot of the time I learn by trial and error which is very slow.

It is usually ember attack that takes out buildings here. The eucalyptus trees throw off a huge number of embers which get carried in the wind and they are so small they get into places no bigger than 2mm (0.1 inch). Tiled roofs and evaporative coolers should be banned in these places, but no one listens to me about such matters.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

To be sure, you have the look of the Irish about you. It is in the hair, the glint of the eyes and the engaging but slightly larrikin smile. Larrikin means a person with apparent disregard for convention; a maverick.

Well, there is Scottish low land on my mums side and high land on my dad’s side, so I'm not sure I'm up for hot weather either. It is funny, but you do get used to the hot weather. I'm constantly banging on about the weather here, because it dominates my life. At about 7.30pm here it is still 28'C (82.4'F) and it looks as though it will be a hot night.

Many thanks. Yeah, I love the stairs as being on the side of a hill; they just give access about the place. The potato beds will go in above those new stairs. I probably should run some vines around the fence of it to?

Pah! A place doesn't have to be neat; it just has to be functional.

Wow, what a story about the car. Glad that you are still here to write about it. You can never be too careful. One thing I try and look out for is my back. At least once a week I will go for an hour long walk or more as I met a physiotherapist who told me many years ago how good walking is for your back.

Hope you are doing all right and for your info there wasn't much rain - yet - beyond a small drizzle. So here's hoping!



orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

My property dates from 1934 and the bit of original cladding, that remains, is wonderful heavy elm boarding. That of course is no longer available. There are 2 lots of other cladding, probably similar to each other and I don't know what they are. My son just walked in and I asked him. Haha he doesn't know other than it will be evergreen i.e. form trees that have needles not leaves.

My son is asking a question about your concreting. How do you manage it in such a hot temperature e.g. retardants. All beyond me but I am sure that you can give a reply that will make sense to him.

The pig as a supplier of food: I am a carnivore so liver, kidneys and heart are wonderful. I don't eat tripe or brains. My mother used to love pigs' trotters; I can't imagine why.

You mention the Ramsar wetlands. My coastline is also a Ramsar site, just one more thing that restricts me.

Property insurance: I don't bother! I was living in a huge house when we had the 1987 hurricane, we were directly in its path (a status time!). 3 months before I had increased the insurance after a house in the same road sold for rather a large sum. The result of this was that I ended up in profit over a lifetimes insurance. Now with a minimalist wooden dwelling, my son would re-build it for me and we are good at doing this as cheaply as possible. Insurance on wooden dwellings is ridiculously high.


LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Cathy - Lake Quinault! Back when I was a clerical substitute for the library system, I worked 3 or 4 days at the branch there. LOL. The Powers That Be didn't like me working up there. Since I got travel time and mileage ... from Centralia. I'd make out like a bandit on those runs! The place is beautiful and the people lovely. Also, in those small branches, even though I wasn't a "licensed" librarian, I got to do reader's advisory and reference work. Did you by any chance know Jean and Arly Olsen? Jean was my assistant manager when I managed the B. Dalton bookstore, here. They had a cabin up there for years. Had horses.

Yo, Chris; Just something interesting I ran across ... what with all the Solstice talk. They recently found a Roman fort in norther Wales. Up near Hadrian's Wall. The four gates of the fort are aligned with the rising and setting sun on the winter and summer solstice. How cool is that? Hardknott Pass Roman fort.

Oh, I follow everything that Simon Pegg does. He's so mad. So's his sidekick Frost. Pegg's autobiography is ... not quit so good. Fan boy makes good :-). Yeah, I first discovered him in "Sean of the Dead." His "Paul" is worth a look. And, you get to see a lot of America. Two Fan Boys cross the states to go to a UFO convention and join forces with a foul mouthed alien escapee from Area 51.

Venus Fly Trap. Interesting. I discovered from "Brother Gardeners" that they are native to the U.S. East coast. I once took a hike around Lake Shasta in Northern California. One whole hillside next to the trail has springs. And, thousands of cobra plants. It was quit a sight.

Well, I'd never lost any books in my last store. But, I worked in a store once where many books where lost because water was pouring down an interior wall. Turned out wind was blowing rain against an outside wall. Water can run uphill. The rain forced the water up the wall, under some loose flashing and down the inside of the wall. One of the libraries I'm familiar with had a fitting on a sink fail on a Saturday night. Library closed on Sunday. Water poured in until Monday morning. Lots of books lost. Water and books don't mix.

Rocks in the chook pen have pretty much vanished in the goo. Over the next few days, I can either haul more rock, or put up with the goo. My choice. Sigh. :-). Lew

Stacey Armstrong said...

Hey Chris,

Nice entry this week. I like your make-do attitude. I made a bunch of tomato cages the past two summers out of old fencing and rebar. They work really well and I can store them for the winter in the top of the barn for re-use. At no point this past summer was I trying to hastily tie up plants with odd bits of twine! How tall do the tomato varieties you grow get to be? Do you do any pruning during their growing season?

There has been some warmer days here. I haven't lit the fire some mornings which is unheard of for this time of year.

A small aside ... I don't know if you are aware of the C-realm podcast but John Michael Greer is a fairly regular guest and the host is a thoughtful fellow.

I have also been wondering about your blackberry patch...any blooms yet?


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

How wonderful, heavy elm cladding. That would be something to see. Did you know dutch elm disease hasn't arrived here and there are still large stands of the trees here. They are very hardy.

A timber house has so many benefits and can breathe and react to moisture - or the lack of - and they just look more appealing in their setting. However, as you rightly point out the Great Fire of London has cast a long shadow on our culture. Timber houses from my experience can be much more fire hardy than the rubbish brick houses they build these days (more on this later).

As to plants with needles, they use a lot of Radiata (Monterey) pine here, so it might be that? It could also be western red cedar as the US has traditionally exported lots of that stuff all over the world. There are some large stands of Douglas (Oregon) fir up in the mountain range here, so that could be one species too, but they don't tend to survive or weather the outdoors here and were generally usually used for supporting timbers (like Oak but not as hard). I spotted a UK house clad with Japanese larch once and that is an exceptionally strong timber too.

Great question! I do the whole concrete step within a half hour and each concrete step is connected to the one below it by reinforcing steel. At the end of the day it is one big unit, but each step fits together like Lego.


Cherokee Organics said...


Had to move outside to supervise the chickens.

No retardants are required because even in hot weather like that it still takes a few hours for concrete to set and about a week to cure.

I asked and old timer builder once what they used to do with concrete footings. I'd worked on an 1890's double brick house and was surprised to find that the footings were concrete 1.3 to 1.6 feet deep. They were full of shell grit and all sorts of interesting stuff. Anyway, the old timer told me that when they poured the footings, they had an army of people to do the mixing and moving of the concrete. The concrete stumps here were up to 2m (6 foot) deep so it required many loads of mini mix because there are over a 100 of the things supporting the house... It was 36'C that day too and honestly I didn't feel so good at the end of that day.

Pig trotters. Is that a ham hock? I used to buy them at the market during winter and make a ham and pea (green lentil) soup. It sure looked like a trotter, but I don't know really. The soup is really good stuff, but you have to let the fat congeal and remove it or it is really fatty - but totally yum!

Oh no! Not another restriction. Well, at least you get a diversity of birds at your place. Because of the climate migratory birds are non existent here.

You've done really well. I'd definitely rebuild here - but I've thought up so many different ways to make the build easier and more efficient with materials. If I had a mill, there'd be no shortage of timber for construction here.

It has just started drizzling here, but it is warm so hopefully the laptop is OK?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Wow! That is cool. Hadrian's wall was an ambitious yet ultimately ineffective construction. It would be great to travel there to see such things, but alas... Have they got any Interweb articles about it and possibly photo's?

Yeah his mate Nick (?) Frost is an absolute laugh. How about the end of Shaun of the Dead when he is chained up playing a video game. Oh - confession time - I saw Paul at the films. Funny stuff. Seth Rogen plays the character of the alien. They're funny people. It was a great laugh.

I've never seen Hot Fuzz yet. Did you like that one? Apparently he was playing a policeman that was moved on because he was too efficient or something like that?

I didn't know that about the Venus fly traps being native to the east coast. Cool. Unfortunately, my plant died because I kept testing to see whether it would bite or not. The cobra plant looks as though it belongs on another planet - let alone northern California. Are they the ones that catch flies with their scent?

I've got a plant here that I can't identify and was thinking about putting it on the blog to see whether someone knew what it is. It looks like an alien visitor planted the thing!

That is sure some wind - which I hope never to see! Blowing the water up the wall. Yeah, that is so true about water and books not mixing. I have wondering for a while now whether a whole lot of Roman era books were lost due to those sorts of events - rather than sacking, looting and burning as history tells it. Maintenance of buildings is no small matter.

Oh no! The rocks have sunk. That is really Monty Python esque. People said I was crazy to build a castle in this swamp, but I proved them wrong and built it anyway - The first one sunk. The second castle... I think you get the picture. hehe!

It hasn't rained here much yet (about 0.2 inch). I reckon with the falls elsewhere I'm in a rain avoidment spot... Other places are getting 8 inches or even up to 12 inches. Yikes! At least the temperature has come back down to normal levels this afternoon. People were a bit ratty because of the prolonged hot weather.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

Many thanks and your tomato system sounds perfect. That is excellent advice too about making things that can be reused every season. I'm planning to hang the tomato supports in the shed too (out of the winter rains).

Too true. I reckon the twine cuts into the vines as well and helps them lodge (i.e. fall over).

Nah, I don't really prune the plants during the growing season although sometimes I give them a top up of mushroom compost (which they love). They're like potatoes so you can heap the compost up around the stem of the plant (I didn't know that until last summer).

Wow, that is warm for your part of the world. Interestingly I didn't light many wood fires during late spring either last year - but winter they were mostly going. The daytime maximum temperatures last year were the highest in recorded history (it goes back to about the mid 1860's). Last year was hot and I expect this year to be hotter again.

Many thanks for the link, always great to get a podcast.

Haha! The thornless blackberries are still red, but full sized and perhaps a week or so off ripening yet (I'll include a photo next week) whilst the wild blackberries (many thorns) are about a month away). I'm really looking forward to blackberry jam which is the creme de la creme of jam. It is a race against time and hoping that the council haven't sprayed the bushes with herbicide...

Keep warm! Cheers


orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

My son is still puzzled by the fact that your concrete doesn't set too quickly. He agrees on the cure time.

Cladding: It won't be imported wood. Son had told me that it might be larch.

Pigs trotters: No, not ham hocks yum yum. I suppose that you might have the trotter on the end though we don't. My mother had just the trotter; ghastly, pure gristle.

Forgot to mention previously, that we have lots of shed restrictions as well. I don't remember permissible size offhand, but they mustn't be too near a boundary or protrude beyond the front elevation of ones property. This produced a hilarious situation, with one of my really stroppy friends, when the planners couldn't agree as to which side of his property was the front. The planners finally walked away from the problem and left him to it

This worked for him but I rely on being very very pleasant and co-operative!


Cathy McGuire said...

@Lewis - I loved the little library at Lake Quinault, in fact, I wrote a chapbook of poems about the area and donated a copy (hope they still have one). It really clinched my desire to live rurally. Ironically there is a lake 5 min. from me (Foster Lake) that is about as lovely, but living/working here, I never get to it! That's the difference between tourist and resident! ;-) I didn't know the Olsens (no place for horses on the rim of the lake) but I still have a friend living up there - Walt Devaney, who is (was?) in charge of the water system - a physicist who loves that place even more than I do. Definitely a green wizard, tho he'd never say so. ;-)

@ Chris - I suppose we do acclimate to heat and/or cold; I used to walk around So. Cal in sleeveless shirts at first, but after a few years had a coat in winter like it's dense wet fog (I'm right next to a river) but if/when it lifts, I'm gonna do a walk-around to see how the various plants are doing... time to plan for spring and note any trouble spots. Not to mention I ordered a dozen bare root shrubs and berry bushes to pick up late February! Gotta figure out where they're going... ;-}

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Here's the article about the Roman fort:

I'd guess the cobra plants are pretty ancient plants. They have sharp little hairs on the inside, pointing down. An insect can go down the tube, but can't get back up. There's a sweet smelling liquid in the bottom ... at least it's sweet until the insect carrion starts piling up.

You're lack of rain ... might have something to do with a "rain shadow." Which I don't understand, but it has something to do with mountains. There's an area over on our Olympic Peninsula referred to as the "Banana Belt" as they don't get much rain and the temperatures are higher. The town of Sequim (pronounced Squim) is a big retirement area for oldsters, due to the nice weather.

Re: Simon Pegg. Let's be fan boys, together :-).
"Hot Fuzz" is about an officious, over achieving prat of a policemen who is so irritating that he gets shipped off to some forsaken little village. Where he uncovers a plot (like the "Wicker Man ..pagan rites, human sacrifice, etc.) and, of course, no one believes him.

A more recent one of his is "World's End." More aliens and a pub crawl. "Run, Fat Boy, Run." Also fairly recent is "Burke and Hare." Not so funny, but it has it's moments. About the notorious pair that stole bodies to sell to physicians in 19th century Glasgow, Scotland. The tv series where I first heard "Come on, Eileen" was "Spaces" (1999) It's about two young people in London, who don't know each other very well, who have to pretend to be a married couple in order to share digs.

Now you may wonder how I can pull all of this out of my .... ear. LOL. It's just that when I did library reference work I stumbled on a site IMDB . com (Internet Movie Data Base) which has all things related to movies and tv. Great when you can't quit remember the name of a movie or an actor. Or, you see a great actor or actress and wonder what else they've done.

Nick Frost is an interesting character. He's never had an acting lesson. He was a mate of Pegg's who was out of work. Pegg got a part and managed to pull him into the production. And, he turned out to be a natural. Nice to remember your mates when you're on your way up.

Well, I guess I'll go out and move some gravel. In the fog. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Dunno really. Maybe we have different mixes of cement here? Just for his info the mix I use is: Parts: 1 x General Purpose Cement + 1.5 x Sand + 3 x Aggregate (river pebble). I bring the mix to a workable paste with water.

Obviously you can't work the face of the wet cement mix for more than a 10 to 20 minutes.

I'd be interested to hear about his experiences in the UK with cement? How quickly does it set in the UK? Maybe there is more lime in the GP cement mix?

If it is larch then you are in luck as that is one hard long lasting hardy bit of timber. Good stuff. Do you have to oil or paint the external walls? Treated pine is about the only timber that lasts exposed to the weather here, but even then... If timber stays dry here, it'll last forever. The moisture brings in the fungi and termites (which there are plenty of).

Yeah, gristle is no fun at all. Ham hocks on the other hand are awesome.

The restrictions here are less than 10 square metres and must be within 100m of the house. It used to be 50 square metres not that long ago...

There is a lot to be said for pleasant and co-operative and it is usually a winning tactic, as long as they a) make common sense; b) avoid pedantry; and c) are pleasant themselves and stick within their own rules.

Those are not unreasonable expectations, but alas some public servants fail at one or more aspects!

Hope you are getting some sunny weather!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

Haha! That exact same thing happens here too. People from the warmer states up north think it is freezing down here - especially up in the mountains.

On the other hand, I'm happy to sit outside the local cafe having a warm coffee and maybe a brekkie pie or toasty as long as it is about 8'C (46.4'F) or above during winter. As you are probably aware, you get used to the cooler weather.

Too funny. It is very foggy here and just drizzling rain today too. There is no chance of it lifting here and tomorrow looks like it will be wetter. It does make it a bit hard for the solar...

Great to hear that you purchased some bare rooted trees and berries. Hey, do you prune the trees after you've put them in the ground? Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't depending on how big the root system is compared to the plant those roots have to support. Dunno, haven't noticed much difference really, but they all get really thirsty in their first summer as they just don't get time to get established. Because the ground doesn't freeze here, the root systems are still reasonably active here when you plant them too, so down under you've got to get the trees in the ground quickly so the roots don't dry out. That's the trick here.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Thanks man. What an achievement that fort is and I can't even begin to know how they knew which day was the longest and which was the shortest? You could get a close guess, but to actually calculate it exactly is something else altogether.

The images of the pass were pretty awe inspiring too. Unfortunately there also looked like a lot of competitive bike riding gear going on which would make it a nuisance. They drive me bananas here because they take huge risks on the incline down from the peak of the range. Much more pleasant to walk that 30% incline at Hardknott pass...

Speaking of which, in Nepal I once walked up hill continuously for 6 hours. I had no idea at that time that that was even a remote possibility! In 6 hours here you could walk the entire loop track around the ridge which runs along the top of the mountain range ending up exactly where you started.

Yeah, the carrion would make it very dodgy smelling indeed. I'd seen similar plants to those here, except they put out a rotting meat smell to attract insects. It is most pungent when the air is warm!

That'd be about right. Neither of those towns sound like my sort of place. With the banana belt, out of interest, do they grow any fruit or crops from out of the area (other than out of state oldsters)? The last bit was a bit of black humour, but I am actually really interested in the micro climate.

On a related note, on the west coast of the island state of Tasmania, parts of that coast average 3m (10 foot) of rain per year as it cops the full brunt of the roaring forties trade winds. The centre of the island is just one big mountain range after the other (have you got to the Sarah Island, Macquarie Harbour story yet?). The east coast of the island on the other hand is really dry and sunny. In fact parts of that coastline are drier and sunnier than here. Don't get me started as I'll talk about geology all day... If you have a good internet connection Google Earth for Tasmania is quite awe inspiring. It is not dissimilar from the PNW of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia - but it is so rugged and remote that there are just not many people living there at all. The island is actually a chunk of Antarctica which the mainland continental plate stole when the Gondwana land continent broke up and Australia began drifting north.

As to the lack of rain, well the tropical monsoon has finally worked its way down here this morning. It is now much cooler and foggy and the skies have drizzled rain all day long today. That pattern looks like it will continue tomorrow, Sunday and end with a bit of a bang on Monday... Outside work has come to a complete halt: Australia weather radar. Given that there is a whole lot of desert on this continent, there is quite a bit of rainfall. The rain event apparently hasn't been seen on this scale for about 30 years now. It is quite impressive.

Cherokee Organics said...

Yeah, why not let’s be fan boys? hehe! Hot Fuzz sounds pretty funny, I'll have to check it out. You know, I can see how aliens and a serious pub crawl could happily co-exist and on reflection they do seem to go hand in hand very nicely. As a bit of a confession, in my younger days I have had a few nights where the old memory was a bit hazy as to the true course of events. Fortunately, my most excellent friends were only too happy to fill in the sordid details to much laughter and hilarity the day after. It has been a very long time since my brain was on auto pilot!

Many thanks for the sneaky referral and also for the many shows and films too! I'll check it out as they sound like they'll be fun.

imdb is a great resource. It almost reads like a resume for films, TV shows and actors. I use that database too. It can be quite interesting to see what people are up to now and what they did in the past.

Of course you have to look after your mates - as long as they look out for you. In the past I have had one or two friends that I've done a solid for, but they failed to appreciate the whole - favour for a favour thing - and such insights are duly noted and future favours were not forthcoming.

Ahh, you've got fog too... Honestly, outside I can't see more than 30ft. What's going on? Sometimes I feel that with the average temperature increasing across this planet, there is just so much more moisture in the atmosphere. Everything bounces from one extreme to another down here...



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Well, when they laid out the fort they probably had a soothsayer or two around to pick a good day and read chicken entrails. Those guys were probably pretty good at astrology and astronomy. Even the engineers that traveled with the troops could have pulled it off.

Most of the legionnaires had all kinds of skills besides just fighting. A few years ago they found a Roman soldier on the beach at Herculaneum. Poor sod was probably home on leave when he got caught in the eruption. Besides his sword, he was also carrying a pretty extensive carpenter's kit.

I've always been interested in Roman Britain and have a shelf full of books to prove it :-). Up until 20 years ago, they really didn't think there was much of a Roman presence in Wales. Lately it seems they're finding forts and settlements all over the place.

Don't know what the duffers grown in the Banana Belt. I suppose the hobby gardeners grow all kinds of things that I difficult here.

Well, I'm glad you're getting a lot of rain. Might take the edge off of your fire season. Early times, though. And, yeah, flooding and erosion is always a problem after a fire. Here they throw a lot of seed on the sloops as soon as possible. Don't know what plants, though.

Yup. Warm air holds more moisture than cold. The why of why tornados, hurricanes, typhoons and rainstorms are getting more frequent and larger.

LOL. You can't hold a candle to my drinking history, mate. Nor would you want to :-). Month after next, 26 years without a drop. Black outs were a nightly occurrence in my case. Miracle I didn't kill me or someone else. When I lived in S. California, I lived in Huntington Beach and used to go to a beach down at San Onofre. Probably 40 miles. I could get to and back either by the coast highway or the San Diego freeway.

I remember being on the beach, swigging Old English Malt Liquor (never mind the hashish brownies) and waking up in my bed the next morning. According to my roomates, my little VW came puttering down the street, I made a U-turn, the door popped open and out I fell. Well, they hustled me in the house, I made a bowl of cereal to eat and promptly passed out face down in the bowl. They put me to bed. And some call those the good ol' days. :-).

Well, I get along. Water out for 24 hours. Just came back on. Need to refill my jugs and buckets. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

I've never really thought much about how you would go about determining the summer solstice exactly. It would be really hard unless you knew an area very well and perhaps you could match the suns progress across the sky throughout the year against a particular fixed point.

Such an act would be very difficult here because of all of the very large trees blocking the view to the horizon.

You're probably spot on about the soothsayer picking through chicken entrails. Don't laugh but, the Chinese used to seek the advice of such folk prior to heading off to war. I wonder if those folk employed common sense and cooler heads than the people employing their services?

Not a bad idea to be a jack of all trades. I didn't realise that Herculaneum was Pompeii. Many years ago the exhibition of the plaster casts was exhibited here at the National Gallery and it was most impressive. Are you finding that you are picking up more varied skills just from living in your area?

It is funny because I visited a local blueberry farm today to pick up some fresh blueberries - oh yeah, they're good. The bloke that ran the farm was a really lovely bloke and we just started having a bit of a chat about all sorts of farm like things and before I even knew it, half an hour had passed. Such is life in the country.

Great to hear about your collection of books about the Roman occupation of Britain. I must confess the only thing that I have read on that time is the fictional account by Marion Bradley called the Mists of Avalon. I don't know whether you have read that or not, but the book was written in such a way that decline was always on the horizon and no matter what gains were made, they were never retained.

I enjoyed a bit of pre-Roman tales too in the form of the book the Mabinogion. It was certainly a time of the unicorn.

You know, it doesn't surprise me that the Romans were in Wales. Given that it is one of the wettest parts of Europe, it would make both excellent and reliable agricultural land.

I remember once coming across an article about some people taking over a degraded small holding in Wales and they showed a before and after photo. Well, the after photo was very impressive. But the before photo would have put quite a few places around these parts to shame.

Duffers is probably the correct descriptive. Down under, being in a rain shadow is a bad thing. The mountain range here casts a rain shadow to the SE and it is very sunny and dry in that location. Not a place to grow anything really.

Thanks, I'm enjoying the reprieve due to the rain. So much so, that I went out today and purchased some new and unusual drought tolerant flowering plants. I must be getting older because I'm really enjoying having more colour and flowers about the place...

You know, even though it was 40'C (104'F) the other day here, I've had to run the wood fire tonight to take the chill off the air!

Exactly spot on. The tropical storms up north of here - where I get most of my summer rain - are getting bigger and more extensive every year. Everything is just getting more extreme. Is that happening up your way too? I noted that the tropical storm we mentioned a few weeks back which hit your area, was actually a whole long way north...

Haha! Too funny. Thanks for the story too and I acknowledge that you have taken that far further than I could ever have. Honestly, the hang overs were not worth the effort and the loss of the day after when I had so many other responsibilities kicked me off that habit pretty quickly.

May you live to see 56 years without a drop!

Glad to hear that the water is back on. The taps in the sky have turned off here too.



orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

I tried to get more concrete information from son. Not lime in the cement. The sand is already in the aggregate. Setting times seem to be infinitely variable depending on temperature. The aggregate has all sorts of things in it. At one time they even put ground glass in it! There was quite a fuss and they had to stop.

Our cladding was covered in creosote mixed with old engine oil. Creosote became illegal and they brought out something called creoseal. That didn't last long and now it is called creosote again, probably with some lethal ingredient taken out. It still looks and smells like creosote. Of course our old engine oil is lethal to things anyhow.

I gather that Jason's eaten blog has concreteing info. perhaps he could re-send it.

Very windy here at present. A dutch salvage team has just requested permission to come through my land to see if there is any pollution from the car carrier that went aground a few days ago. They were reckoning on driving down. Haha it is a long walk.


Cathy McGuire said...

Hi, Chris -
I don't prune the plantings after putting them in the ground, but I'm a rank beginner. I'm proud of myself when I pick a reasonably good place for them to survive and dig the hole big enough! ;-} And the way my past few years have gone, the ones who were hardy enough to survive with neglect have done well. This year I hope to at least have good fertilizer and to bury them within a ball of chicken wire to keep the moles and gophers from nobbling them before they get big enough to manage. I guess this is "permaculture"? Working with the environment you have, not the environment you wish you have? ;-)
Also, thought you might enjoy this one:
Australia's Teabagging PM, Tony Abbott, is cracking down on anyone who insults his political party by arresting those who wear shirts he doesn't like.

@ Lewis - I couldn't find King's "The Stand" or his book on writing in the Corvallis used bookstore (wonderful place, but 40 min. away- that's really the closest decent shop). I'll keep looking - might break down and order from Powell's if it's not too spendy. I'm looking for a good example of first person single POV - because there are things you can do with omniscient and multi-POV that you can't in single POV... and I have been dipping into some examples that I like - but it's like studying the Mona Lisa: you can see exactly where that dab of pink or green went - but try and do it yourself? Ah - that takes practice and almost nobody can get that good. Same with smooth, compelling description and dialogue - the challenge of avoiding "maid and butler dialogue" (as they call it) and cramming the needed detail into the right segment is huge. So I know I'm not meeting the goals I'm setting but I keep trying.

FYI, everyone - I've posted the 4th chapter on my site:

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; LOL. A couple of things I meant to say got lost in the shuffle of refilling jugs, etc..

The Roman soldier they found at Herculaneum, they did a reconstruction on his skull to get an idea of what he looked like. From the state of his nose, it looks like he'd been in several tavern dust-ups :-).

Oh, I read the Mists of Avalon series years ago. When dinosaurs ruled the earth and Moses was a pup. :-) I read all the Arthurian stuff when I was a kid and that led me to some non-fiction stuff about Roman Britain. The thought that almost 400 years of "civilization" could go right in the toilet just really impacted me. As far as fiction goes, now I'm more interested in books that tell a more realistic view of "what it might have been like" when the legions left. "The Camulod Chronicles" by Jack Whyte are very good.

The Romans were interested in Wales because of the tin mines and some gold. Those mines had been worked back to prehistoric times.

Yeah, Herculaneum and Pompeii were two different cities. With very different fates. Pompeii was covered in ash fall. Herculaneum was buried in pyroclastic flow and mud. To excavate at Herculaneum you need a jack hammer.

I was watching a documentary "Emperor's Ghost Army" about the terracotta soldiers in China. There are two things I hope to live to see before I shuffle of the mortal coil. The opening of the Emperor's tomb and the complete excavation of the House of the Papyri in Herculaneum. Which may have belonged to Julius Caesar's father-in-law, by the way. Most of those big houses had a Greek library and a separate Latin library. The Latin library has not yet been found.

Varied skills? Oh, yeah. Living out here has been a real education. I've done all kinds of things I've never done before. Between my neighbor/landlord/friend, the internet and books I've managed to muddle through.

The corker on the California black out story is that to this day, I don't know if I took the San Diego freeway home, or the Coast Highway. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Is "concrete information" a clever play on words? You're lucky I'm awake to pick up your clever and subtle humour! Too funny. ;-)!

No stress, when he gets around to it. I don't doubt that things and materials may different in the UK. The higher temperatures here actually may make construction things easier. I've seen many a Grand Designs UK with snow and frost everywhere and working in those conditions on a building site is like asking for an accident to happen.

The glass would have made the product look quite attractive if any showed. Like a sort of terrazzo stone. They use glass in artificial stone bench tops for kitchens and the stuff looks really cool. Most of our recycled glass gets ground up and turned into insulation though.

That is a very old school mix. Did you know they still use that on post and rail fencing in rural areas here. I'm not sure but the creosote is reputedly a carcinogen.

It is funny the things that can be toxic. The old timer timber workers here used to make a fragrant bush tea using the leaves from the local sassafras tree. Unfortunately, the leaves were apparently carcinogenic and as such, you could say in a strange twist of fate, the forests in turn enacted their revenge.

Once blogger has eaten a comment. It's gone.

Jason has a lovely blog about his farm: Tales from Fox Hollow.

Wow, did you see the car carrier run aground? There are no roads through the extremely thick forest here either. I wonder what they were possibly thinking?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

I rarely prune them either, but it is probably more out of softness from inflicting further damage to the tree than anything else. I rarely prune the fruit trees here at all - only the dead growth. Very few of the trees get diseases because they're very well fed and there is quite a bit of forest buffer between here and the nearest orchard.

Yeah, that is the trick. Get them off to a good start and you don't really have to worry too much about them. In your rainy part of the world I reckon wet feet would be the biggest problem (maybe?).

Too true, neglect is a great way to sort out the survivors from the rest of the pack. I stopped spraying the nectarines and peaches a few years ago for that very reason and some have thrived, whilst others have died.

Exactly, work with nature as you may get unexpected benefits from the many creatures in your garden and you never know who is aerating the soil and providing manure (hopefully sourced from your greens on your neighbours property!). Yeah, nothing works like you think it would work, it is really up to us to watch and see what does work.

Yes, very silly. However it gets worse: If only Freya Newman could have tipped off ICAC. The ICAC is refers to an Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Things are weird, but not yet too bad. If they get too bad, I'll simply keep my mouth shut and go to ground and just quietly go about my business not disturbing anyone.

PS: If you are not offended, I'm going to have to print out your chapters so that I can read them offline and then respond. Hopefully, you are OK with that?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Glad to hear that you filled up your reserve water supplies. You may have noticed, that from time to time, I too interrupt replies to see to some chore or minor emergency that requires a spot of attention. Mostly it is smooth sailing here, but you never really know when things are about to get out of hand.

After the recent rains, the tanks are about 95% full and there are more rains due tomorrow night, so who knows? It is great to have so much water at this time of year.

That is some serious detail to be able to pick up the shape of the nose. It is a bit sad to survive the tavern dust ups only to be taken out by a volcano.

The casts I saw from Pompeii were a bit more vague as to the details. The impression that I was left with from the plaster molding was that people were caught out in their day to day activities and it happened very quickly. What was interesting too was that the Romans of the day would have known that there was a town there and they simply abandoned any ideas of rescue or re-establishing the town.

You're not that old! I find that assertion very hard to believe. hehe! That makes sense. Do you find that the Arthurian tales are always a little bit sad and smell of decline? Like they win something and then it slowly slips away from their grasp.

I can't believe you slipped in another sneaky book reference. Well done, I'm mildly in awe of your audacity! I may just check it out, although at the moment I'm reading "Tracks" by Robyn Davidson so it is all camels and the very remote central out back Australia in the mid to late 1970's. On reflection it may not be that much of a jump to post Roman Britain though.

Yes, the mines would have been a good source of revenue and tin is a very useful metal. Some of my older bits of preserving kit are made from tin, however I do prefer the stainless steel components.

Haha! They did an exhibition here of some of the Emperors terracotta army too and it was awesome. The detail is amazing as each soldier was individually crafted. It was awe inspiring stuff and a little bit creepy to be looking at things that were made by hand and buried so many millennia ago.

Interesting. Given the complete decomposition of the bodies, did they find any manuscripts. That would make some pretty interesting reading.

Too true. I muddle through here too and it adds a bit of spice to life, because you never quite know what will be around the corner.

Haha. I shouldn't laugh, but that is hilarious! Well done or getting back in one piece - more or less.

I can't remember whether I already mentioned this to you, but my grandfather used to get ripped on whiskey with his WWII mates every ANZAC day. Anyway, once he took me along and I clearly remember him telling me on the way back home how he'd been driving for 40 years, blah, blah, blah. Honestly as a child I didn't have the least clue as to how pissed he was!

PS: The sun has just started to shine from behind the clouds at about 8pm. Off to chook land for me!



orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris.

Have to admit that 'concrete information' was not intentional. I am an almost complete sobersides. I used to be a complete one but my husband had the driest sense of humour that I have ever encountered. This was inherited by 2 of our young and at least I learnt to recognise it.

I realise that blogger eats things permanently and acknowledge that re-doing a long comment from scratch is onerous and depressing.

I know about Jason's 2 blogs and look at them.

I didn't see the ship ground. It is the Hoegh Osaka and there are masses of photos on the internet.
It was deliberately grounded as it had listed. If it had gone down in the shipping lane, the port of Southampton would have come to a halt. I believe that tugs have now moved it.

The men who went down through my land weren't salvage crew (I was misinformed) they were a private environmental... employed by the ship's company. I did check that they were official and not the viewing public.

Sassafras oil: read something recently about it being used okay in a recreational drug. Then it was replaced by another oil, the result has been deaths.


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Mmm. Pompeii and Herculaneum the people dropped what they were doing, but most of the bodies are people trying to shelter or in full flight. Not far from the soldier on the beach they discovered boat sheds built into the city wall. And over 300 bodies of people who had sheltered there when the pyroclastic flow caught up with them.

LOL. I know I'm a nit-picker, sometimes. The movie "Pompeii" last year was great spectacle, but some of the details drove me nuts. Tidal waves were not involved. Ships were not flipped over the city walls to crush fleeing citizens in the streets.

Here's a pretty good bit on the Villa of the Papyri. And, the scrolls. When the first ones were uncovered back around 1800, they thought they were charcoal briquettes. The Getty Museum put out a book of some of the translations, about 5 years ago. Mostly dull philosophical stuff (from my point of view) but one ripping account of the Battle of Actium. Warning! Some pictures on this link may not be suitable for young children or to be viewed at work. Never thought I'd write that :-).

Yeah, there is a tinge of sad nostalgia to all the Arthurian stories. The bit about the Wastelands and the Fisher King? Well, besides a plague in the 500s, they also think there was some huge ecological disaster. There are some good arguments for an astroid, other good ones for a volcanic eruption. Either way, judging from tree ring data in Ireland, something VERY bad happened around 530 CE.

Oh, I've just decided to be shameless about book recommendations. :-). Just pile them up and save them for your winter when you're cooped up inside. I read a book about our camel experiments here, last year. Around our Civil War. In fact one poor camel was killed in a Civil War battle.

Re: "Fatal Shore". I'm up to the part about poor Morisset and his attempt to reform and humanize Norfolk Island. I don't know why, but I thought you lived up in W. Australia. But now I think you're in Victoria. I put "Australia, the First Four Billion Years" on hold and want to pay attention when they discuss the geology of your area. Lew

heather said...

Hi Chris and all-

Sick kid here- boo!- so just time for a quick two cents' worth:

Re. your fall- I'm relieved that you weren't more seriously injured. I tend to interpret all such near misses in my life as my one freebie from the universe and adapt my behavior accordingly, assuming that I won't get another penalty-free heads up. Looks like, from your ambitious stair-building project in the heat, maybe you do some similar interpretation.

Re. calculating solstices: I think all you need is the shadow from something tall, i.e. a post. SInce the angle of the sun changes with the cycle of the year, the length of the shadow at midday will be longest at the winter solstice and shortest at the summer solstice. So if you mark this shadow for a year, also noting sunrise and set locations, you know exactly where to put your fort doors. :)

Re. pruning bare-root fruit trees: on the advice of my 85 year old orchard nursery-owning neighbor Charlie, I prune all my bare-root fruit trees hard- like to a 36-inch stick- the first year. It is so terribly difficult to do, I feel like an axe murderer, but he swears it's the "right way"- allow the root structure to develop without trying to support a lot of top growth. And my trees have been healthy, and by the third year you'd never dream they had been butchered like that. Old Charlie says they fruit quicker that way too.

Continued sunny and dry here. Boo.

Looking forward to more news from down under-
--Heather in CA

heather said...

Hi again-
I hadn't read the end of last week's comments until now, sorry.

Chris, I don't know much about the geological history of California, despite having taught fourth grade (including CA history and geography) for a few years right after I came out here from Michigan. Let's just say I stayed a chapter ahead of the kids. :) So thanks, Lew, for the save on the glaciers. A natural history book on the area is on the reading list for this year!

Cathy, plus one on the Aaronovitch "Rivers of London" series. I inhaled them several months ago. Hope you are enjoying a little break from your own writing.

And lastly, Lew, thanks for the ear worm. "Come On, Eileen" will now be bouncing around in my head for the next week. :)

--Heather in CA