Monday, 2 April 2018

Show me the values

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

Property is a complex and difficult topic. Last week I lead a discussion group on the dreaded twin topics of money and property. The audio from that discussion group can be found here: Green Wizards recent discussion regarding Money and Property. When I was a child, my mother always used to admonish me to not discuss the following: Money; Politics; or Religion. That was some good advice, which last weekend at my peril I largely ignored, because I found myself discussing the first of those 'non-discussable-in-polite-company' topics.

It is really hard for me to know where to begin such an impolite discussion. Usually I begin by recounting my experiences as a young bloke who was faced with the 'recession that we had to have' in the early 1990's. Back then I experienced what the term LIFO means. LIFO of course is the fancy acronym for: 'Last In First Out', and it was originally coined as a method for valuing inventory, where the most recently introduced items are considered to be the first sold. In practical terms how LIFO plays out is that if you were to imagine you are on a sinking ship, and the only way to keep the ship afloat was to eject passengers, well under the LIFO arrangement, the last people on board, would be the first to be thrown overboard. Being a youngster in those days, I was made redundant from my first job, and then had to scramble to find some other form of employment during a period of 10% unemployment. Anyway that's what LIFO means to me, in purely practical terms.

After sharing my exciting experience of those heady days, I then went on to discuss how much property cost back in those days. Then I compared how the cost of property looks nowadays. The comparison is stark, and it's one that I take no joy in making.

On the other hand it is a comparison that is worth making because there are folk who want to get dirt under their fingernails, and attempt to grow some produce. That requires land.

The whole 'back to the land' story is a narrative in our culture. When I was a kid I watched episodes of the English television show: "The Good Life". The show was about a couple who chose to convert their back garden to an entirely edible and productive garden. I quite enjoyed the show, and the more conservative neighbours in the show provided a delightful contrast and entertaining foil.

But the story shown in that television show is simply not true. Nobody ever said that television has to tell factual stories. Sometimes though, those stories get repeated elsewhere and the 'back to the land' story is one that really annoys me. As part of the discussion I produced an article from the newspaper (I had a physical copy of the article): Survivor's guide to gardening plots the key to healthy produce.

During the discussion group last week, somebody knew of 'Kat' who is the person mentioned in the article. I applaud Kat's efforts in annually producing 350kg (or 770 pounds) of produce on such a small inner city plot of garden space at 171m2 (or 1,840ft2) because it is an impressive effort. However, it just makes no economic sense whatsoever. The overall land size was another 100m2 larger than the garden. It is a big block of land in the inner city.

From reading the article, I'd have to suggest that the property itself, given the inner city location and land size, probably costs somewhere around or over $2m. Yup, you read that right, I'm suggesting that if you wanted to purchase such a large inner city property in Melbourne, you'll need to have around two million dollars. How many young people have that sort of money? I sure don't.

If I were being optimistic, at a guess the 350kg of produce could be sold for about $4 per kg. That equates to an annual income of $1,400 from the garden produce. Now maths is not my strong suit (despite being an accountant - I guess that's what calculators are for), but I reckon that works out to be an annual return on investment of about 0.07%, which from an economic perspective makes no sense whatsoever.

The article also mentions David Holmgren, who is the co-originator of the permaculture concept. He is a nice bloke, and I've met him when I visited his farm in Hepburn Springs - which is a town connected to the nicest town on the planet: Daylesford. David owns a 2¼ acre productive property in Hepburn Springs. He's in walking distance to cafe's. It is a really nice property and in a great location, but far out, unless he's selling a whole lot of courses and books, I reckon he'd struggle affording such a huge tract of property, in such a nice location, nowadays.

It is a real problem this property thing, and it occurred to me today that fertile land in a good location is in rather short supply.

Of course, the alternative is to purchase much more affordable land that is probably not fertile at all, and is most likely in a really rubbish location which is usually far from anywhere (what no cafe!). This story should sound familiar to long term readers, as it is my story! On a more positive note, many of these serious problems can be readily overcome, it is just not realistic to expect that story to make any economic sense whatsoever.

Speaking of not making any economic sense, a few days ago I fed some of the fruit trees in the large mixed orchard one cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of mushroom compost. The editor came up with the bright idea of driving the dirt rat Suzuki and the bright yellow trailer down onto the paddock next to the orchard. That idea saved a huge amount of effort with the wheelbarrow. On the downside, the paddock is reasonably steep, but fortunately dirt rat Suzuki's is a four wheel drive with low range gearing.
The dirt rat Suzuki and bright yellow trailer are used to distribute a cubic metre of mushroom compost in the orchard
The weather has been superb this week. The government recently lit a small planned fire in the nearby 'Wombat State Forest'. The smoke from that fire drifted across the farm for a few days. It produced the most amazing sunsets.
Smoke from a nearby planned burn in Wombat State Forest produced superb sunsets
Late in the afternoon, the smoke produces a yellow / orange hue to the light which gets reflected in the tall trees surrounding the farm.
Smoke produces a yellow / orange light which gets reflected late afternoon in the tall trees
Sometimes when we're in the right mood, the editor and I will clean up the detritus left from over a century or so of logging activities in this forest. This week we were in the right mood, and we used our 18hp stump grinder to convert some of the old tree stumps into sawdust The sawdust rapidly gets eaten by the soil critters and soon becomes top soil. The process is just a lot of work. Some of the tree stumps like the one in the next photo show signs of having been burnt in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfire and they're still hard as a rock.
Ollie stands proudly next to the remains of an old tree stump which the loggers left. The scorching dates from the 1983 fires
Sometimes the loggers left the butts of huge old trees, which I'm guessing they used a bulldozer and chains to remove.
The butt of this huge old tree appears to have been dragged to that location for some strange reason which we'll never know
We began correcting one of the many concrete staircases which provide access to parts of the garden. Additional steps have to be added because the path below the staircase was too steep and occasionally slippery. Stairs are really important in steep properties as they allow access. And cement is an amazing product because it resists weather, and unlike timber it does not rot in damp conditions.
The first step was added to the lower part of this existing concrete staircase
Unfortunately for us, Ollie the Australian cuddle dog who everyone knows masquerades as a cattle dog, decided that he enjoyed nothing more than drawing graffiti in wet cement. We found this disaster an hour or so after pouring the second step (this was actually his second piece of cement artwork. I mistakenly thought he had learned his lesson after the first incident. But no!):
Take 2: Ollie the cattle dog was in a lot of trouble
Ollie found out that he could be grounded and that was a salient lesson for him to learn. We still judge him not trustworthy and he now remains confined whenever cement is curing into concrete. We corrected that disaster and the poured a further step the following day:
Three steps were added to the staircase with possibly another one or two to go
The internet service at this farm is quite expensive and there is really only one supplier. Over the past few months we have been having troubles with internet connection speeds. So over the weekend I added a second yagi antenna (which I probably should have done in the first place) and connected up the modem. Bam! Lightening fast, if you consider 25Mbps fast, well we think it is.
A second yagi antenna was added this week for the internet service and the speeds have increased
In an unfortunate turn of events, we had to purchase two dozen eggs (free range of course, grain fed, and with < 350 chickens per hectare / 2.5 acres). The chickens are on their annual moulting egg strike cycle and we are only getting between one and two eggs per day. That many eggs is better than nothing, but less than we eat! Check out boss Plymie who at least has two good feathers:
Boss Plymie during her annual moult cycle. At least she has two good feathers!
The family of magpies that live at the farm appear to have produced two youngsters during the summer. The family can often be seen with mum and dad teaching the young ones how and where to forage.
The family of magpies teach their young how and where to forage
I haven't mentioned the citrus trees in a long while, but they are doing well despite the dry autumn. It looks like by winter I may have a good crop of lemonades and mandarins too.
Grapefruit hang heavy and tasty on the tree
Lemons are plentiful
The winter greens are just starting to sprout now. The next photo shows the very tasty winter rocket. The plants are grown from saved seed harvested last year.
The annual rocket which grows over winter has just sprouted from seed this week.
Onto the flower photos!
A beautiful rose
The bush rose produces ever more flowers as it scrambles through the garden bed
Salvia's are both delightful and real givers in hot weather
Lavender is also a giver as this bee can attest
Basil mint grows in front of what looks like another mint (oregano) which is strangely red instead of the usual green
Geraniums love the sun and heat
I'm not sure Mr Toothy is impressed with geraniums

The temperature outside now at about 10.00pm is 11’C (52’F). So far this year there has been 158.6mm (6.2 inches) which is higher than last week's total of 157.4mm (6.2 inches).

76 comments:

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - It would be interesting to know how the young lady financed her $2m chunk of land. Not polite to ask, I suppose. I'd guess either she inherited the land, money, or both. I do hope she's set aside enough for ever escalating property taxes. What really burns my grits is those all purpose "back to the land books." Everything from baking bread to raising goats. A couple of pages on chickens, a couple of pages on goats, and you're all set! One hopes for a good and extensive bibliography.

Quit a few years back, you'd run across people who were SHOCKED and HORRIFIED that there were no Starbucks in all of Lewis County. I can think of at least one instance where that seems to be the major reason for moving back to the city. Transplanting significant others to this part of the world never seems to work out well. Not to worry. We got our Starbucks, or three. I don't keep up. I did see an article yesterday that our local hospital is getting one.

So, why do the wombats bother you? Good grief, they have there very own State Forest to frolic in. Probably the good tucker you provide.

Ollie is genetically programed to leave prints in concrete. :-). His Roman ancestors sure left a record of their coming and goings in clay roof tiles. Along with cats, deer and small children. What can I say? Dog mischief.

How soon we forget. I'd forgotten about moulting chickens and how seedy and moth eaten, they look. I am quit envious of your citrus crops. And, the flowers, per usual, are quit lovely. I need to discover if we have any lavender, about. If not, I'd like to put a patch in. I think we had a bit of a snow, last night. Not much, but stuck to the car windows, and froze.

I was not hit by falling Chinese space junk. It would have been quit something to see it streaking across the sky. Guess I'll just have to settle for a spectacular full moon rise. Off to the auction to collect my new/old tat. Lew

SLClaire said...

Hi Chris,

I enjoyed your perceptive post on the difficulty of procuring fertile land in a good location that one can afford. You solved the problem in one way: you found infertile land that isn't excessively far away from an urban area and are working hard to restore its fertility. I solved it a different way: we found fertile land in a location most people think isn't good so we could afford it. The objections to the location include its being in the Midwest (which most folks on the US left and right coasts consider to be flyover country, preferring to forget that they eat because of the Corn Belt), within the St. Louis metro area (most people in the US, including most of its residents, consider it a has-been city), and in an area that most of the rest of the metro residents consider to be less than desirable if not actually dangerous due to its demographics (north St. Louis county, or North County as it's referred to, infamous for Ferguson a few years back). You can buy an acre of land with a small older house on my street for less than $100K, and it's good silt loam soil. The houses are quite small and many of them are 100 or more years old, which most buyers consider to be a major strike against them. But for anyone who wants a productive garden and doesn't mind a small outdated house, it's a great place to live. I grew about 540 pounds of vegetables and fruits last year in 1200 square feet of bed space in the fenced-in garden area. And yes, I'll be writing up the results for my blog in April. I finally completed several other higher-priority projects so I can start to use some of my writing time for the blog.

Regarding the smart-meter issue, as someone who is married to a retired water meter reader, I think this blog's commentariot missed the utility companies' most compelling reason for going to smart meters: dis-employing the meter readers. Meter readers are, after all, wage employees who belong to unions. Companies want to get rid of them to rid themselves of the costs of their labor, especially labor that can strike and thus be disruptive to their game. Our water utility was the last of the local utilities to switch over to smart meters, with our meter being changed less than a year ago, when we could no longer avoid it. Mike conversed with the employee who did the switch, who confirmed that the meter reader employment classification is gone. All the meter readers had to find another position in the company, or find another employer, or retire. Just another brick in the wall ...

Yuck - snow for Easter. Only about 0.6 inches officially, but St. Louis hadn't had snow on Easter since 1940 before yesterday afternoon. Plus a low around 25F / -4C this morning. Hope for the apricot and plum flowers is fading. We are to have more mornings with lows a few degrees below freezing during the week to come. I'll start working on the pea and potato areas but it'll probably be next week before I plant them, if then; depends on when the weather decides to get back to at least mid March warmth. I'd prefer April warmth, if we ever get it.

Claire

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Pam,

Thanks for the explanation about the logs used in your stone retaining wall. They'd add something to the soil for sure. You know, sometimes I've caught Ollie digging up potatoes and crunching on them (hope you enjoyed the Ollie prints on the concrete step). He is certainly naughty enough for that, although I doubt whether he has been at your place digging up the potatoes. The birds can do that trick too, and some of the blackbirds are really impossible to keep out of the raised vegetable beds, although they are very flighty. Rats and mice can be culprits too, although they take a bite out of the potatoes from what I've seen here. Dunno. Have you worked out who the culprit is? I reckon it is safe to exclude any and all wombats from the line up!

Nice work with the chainsaw. Is your son intending to leave the beam to season, or is he intending to work it green?

That I could deal with on the step. Unfortunately, Ollie took it to 11 on the dial!

Me too, most carrots are pretty strange looking, so all I care about is taste too. I'm not a fan of the difficult to achieve standards that the supermarkets impose on farmers. Most fruit and vegetables look pretty dodgy and not at all like the 'standards of perfection' imposed on farmers. I wouldn't bother playing that game, and they probably have no dirt under their fingernails and have no idea about the sheer waste such policies cause.

I don't really know the answer to that question about wheat varieties, but I can tell you that the varieties grown nowadays are not those grown years ago. There is some weirdness with the government and spraying fungicides on seed stock coming into the country. Country Hour for Monday 2 April, 2018. Look for the fifth bullet point.

I have officially crashed today as I came down with a cold late yesterday afternoon. I'm now into my fourth sick day in ten years. Last week I encountered several people with signs of the cold, but worked with those people all the same. What do you do? And I have no benefits for sick leave...

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Margaret,

It is a bit of a struggle today to keep up with the comments as I have a cold. Yuk! It happens and I had to take my fourth sick day in ten years, although to be honest I shouldn't really complain as I prefer not to go to work sick. Unfortunately last week I encountered several people displaying signs of the cold, and eventually the bug took me out. Mustn't grumble!

I hope you enjoy the discussion and please feel free to share your opinions on the matters discussed. Ouch. I have no idea what to say about such a financial circumstance. Sometimes I suspect that the people involved feel that it does not matter, or all they can imagine is the next goal in their minds. There is a mild element of disconnect between benefits from the debt, and consequences from taking on board the obligation. Dunno, really.

We had a quiet few Easter days. I'm enjoying thinking about the yummy Easter food! It is probably not a bad idea that there are no meerkat-that-done-it photos because who knows how everyone would react?

It is a good book isn't it? Glad that you too are enjoying the book. I'm really enjoying the story of the central protagonist as she deals with all sorts of dramas but keeps on keeping on! It is also great to read the excellent descriptions of the changing environment around the cabin over time.

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Lewis,

That is very funny about the muffin being a bald cup cake. Looks like there will be no muffin for me this week, because last night as I was writing the blog, a cold kicked in hard. By 10pm I could barely concentrate and the blog took hours longer to write than normal. Today is a write off for me and I'm enjoying a warm cup of hot water with honey and the juice of a lemon as I type this reply. For lunch I grabbed every single herb that I could find growing in the garden and chucked them in a bowl (it looked like a green salad) and placed two fried eggs on top. Anyway this is my fourth sick day in ten years. Not having any benefits which some people take for granted, tends to focus the mind a bit and fortify the body, but I'm not one for presenteeism at work - which is where people turn up sick to work. And that is exactly where I came into contact with sick people last week. Not very nice the cheeky scamps.

Anyway, that is my epic whinge for the day. I feel better, well actually I don't, but hope to feel better in the future. The hot water, honey, and lemon juice performs wonders.

I hope you enjoy the story, the editor loved the Handmaid's Tale story. Interesting to read that most of the events had occurred sometime in the past as I wasn’t aware of that aspect of the story. Limits to Growth, which I'm reading at the moment tells a dystopian tale, and no matter which way they come at the variables, the result is more or less the same. Which is to say, not good!

I'd fight tooth and nail for the royalties from that new word, only to find that I heard it somewhere else long ago... Pah! Probably in an obscure song. That is life sometimes.

Moog's are pretty cool aren't they? Such an elegant and probably eminently repairable electronic device. Sometimes I walk past a music swap shop (basically a second hand dealer for musical instruments) in the inner city and I look in the window at all of the old keyboards. They just look cool, but it is probably also an expression of the revenge of analogue. Did you ever learn to play a musical instrument? I took up the guitar as an adult, but I got to a point where I recognised that if I wanted to get better, I would have to focus on learning to play the instrument. I backed away from that, because my time was already full. It would be nice to have more than a few lives! ;-)!

It would be such a dull world if the creativity were driven out of the populace. I suspect that experiment would be a dead end for society. The ability to create things of beauty is the thing that gives me the greatest hope for the future.

Simon Pegg is very funny! Have you heard of any new films from him in recent times?

Oh no! Forks averages 212 days per year with measurable precipitation!!! Far out, that is wet as. No-wonder a vampire story was set there, it is the gloom. Hehe! The images on the internet of the trails in nearby Olympic National Park are nothing short of stunning. The Old Timers Round Table would be interesting to listen to.

cont...

Jo said...

Goodness your orchard grass looks very dry! Thankfully things are greening up here due to recent rain.
I have no idea, but I would have imagined that a student would be renting, not owning in Melbourne..
Are you saying that Kat should up sticks and move somewhere else? That she could buy several acres if she wants to garden that much? I do agree that property prices are insane in Oz atm. It would be a good time to sell and lie low downsizing to a shed or something for a few years until property prices 'readjust'. No wonder tiny houses are popular.

Jo said...

PS Does anyone think that Retrosuburbia book is slightly overpriced at $85? Very few of us who are the demographic who would be interested in such a book will be able to afford it..

Fernglade Farm said...

I'm crashing a bit now... Had a sleep a couple of hours ago and that was a good thing as it revived me. Good sense prevails with all of us from time to time. You scored pretty well with the Tiffin Glass, and what a fascinating manufacturing history that company had. Manufacturing really copped it in the neck in the 1980's and 1990's. It was a sad thing to walk away from producing stuff, but them's the choices we made. Tiffin appears to have found a niche for itself and produced quality items, especially to survive the Great Depression. Who would have thought it, but there is an online glass encyclopaedia - which you probably already knew about?

Is your collection complete without the Haviland china? That company still manufactures to this day and is owned by a single family. Very impressive and clearly they have a taste for order and neatness as many of the pieces are numbered and catalogued. Very impressive.

What was the story of the cast iron dancing Japanese women? It sounds intriguing.

Did Julia win her auction? It is nice to have people in your life that you have known for a long time. If it means anything to you, I rather look forward to our regular and ongoing chats about: Life; the Universe; and everything!

You rarely encounter a Social Justice Warrior down here, which I reckon is a good thing. Removing the cross on a hot cross bun is just a silly issue for people to waste their precious lives on. I recall that a couple of decades ago the editor and I were outside a bakery in far western Queensland (imagine really dry cattle country). We were tucking into a very tasty lamington when all of a sudden and old busybody stepped out of the bakery and said to the editor: "Tut! Tut! Calories." We looked at each other and said: "What just happened?" Nowadays, I'd probably share a very ungentlemanly suggestion. And that is despite my usual state of diplomacy and good grace. Some people just need to be told.

I tried to leave a few comments at the Kunstler blog the other day because several people were clearly talking rubbish about something I do know about - Electric cars. Someone was seriously suggesting that the vehicles could be charged by renewable sources, and that may be possible, but it is also highly unlikely. It was a bit of a waste of time as they ignored my reply. I wonder if they read it though? Dunno.

Oh yes, choccie for health reasons is all the excuse one ever needs! I recall that you enjoy only a finger or two of chocolate per day. A very nice limitation to set on your life! :-)!

Well yeah that is the unanswered question isn't it? How was the place financed? I suspect that a lot of people are looking to their parents estates as a future form of financing. It is an ugly business, but some folks wait around on dead peoples money.

double secret cont...

Fernglade Farm said...

The thing that I wondered about was that back in the day when everyone had a backyard vegie patch and perhaps some chooks or rabbits, the horse transport used was a great source of manure for those gardens. I heard on the Archdruid report once someone commenting that people favoured cars because there wasn't horse poo left on all the streets. But I reckon that would have been a comment from wealthier types who didn't have to maintain a vegetable garden. The hill stations up here always kept an orchard and vegetable patch for the owners because what else were they going to eat? I can still spot the horse troughs on the main road leading up the mountain range, although I reckon plenty of people wouldn't have a clue as to what they are. I should include the old advertisement from up this way for a holiday home which included the luxuries of a cow and orchard on the property. Fun stuff.

I've seen those books and they read as a very disjointed story. Like one or two brief articles could teach you everything you need to know about chickens for example. This gear is a long apprenticeship and I make no bones about that.

Oh, there are a few Starbuck stores in Melbourne, which is odd because of the laneway café culture. Between 1850 and 1890, they dug a lot of gold out of the ground down here. Check out some images of the: The Block Arcade Melbourne.

The Wombat State Forest was logged for longer than here, so the soils there are quite depleted. The forest was closed for logging in my awareness and I reckon it was because it had been strip mined and needs time to recover. The regular burns there are a good thing for the soils. Wombats enjoy nothing more than compost fed garden beds and they look glossy and very fat here - which I'm well pleased with.

Yes, dog mischief indeed! Can you believe how many footprints he left in that wet cement? He was clearly enjoying himself. It is a bit eerie to think upon the prints on the old Roman tiles.

The citrus crop has come in handy today and I've consumed a few lemons, and may do another one before bed time. The grapefruit has a particularly sharp taste. Yum!

Wherever did the space station touch down? Apparently the International Space Station weighs about 55 tons and that is going to come down sooner or later. Ah, north of Tahiti which is a bit off course!

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Claire,

Absolutely, we both have clearly made choices that are in line with our values. And I applaud your values! I got the idea for the blog story whilst reading 'Limits to Growth' on Saturday. It clarified something for me that I was barely aware of, but the authors described the conundrum with such clarity that I wondered why I hadn't thought about the problem from that perspective before:

New food producing productive land may be brought on line in the future, but we may not be able to afford to do so because of such a low return on energy returned for the energy invested.

Chilling stuff, and it sort of matches what I'm observing here. This property can be made productive, and I have set aside both the energy and the resources to achieve just that, but the thought continues to keep bouncing around in my head that it makes little if any economic sense. I reckon the authors spoke directly to that dilemma, what do you feel about that?

I look forward to reading about the results of your garden in your blog in April. Are you noticing that the depth of the top soil is increasing? And I'm also curious as to whether you feel that the plants were hardier this past season and less prone to diseases and pests?

The huge costs in smart meters just to eliminate meter readers jobs is a very weird thought, but I don't doubt you. So many things are like that these days. Honestly, I had no idea that smart meters were installed on water meters too. Wow. I wonder how those devices are powered?

Ouch! Yup, that weather may take out the apricot and plum blossoms, but you never know? Your growing season is beginning very late.

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Jo,

Oh yeah, there is plenty of water in the soil and the fruit trees aren't suffering overly and neither is the forest, but any small plants with small root systems in the full on sun are doing it tough as. And believe it or not, it has been wetter up here in the mountains than in Melbourne. The statistics show a more or less even year for rainfall so far, when compared to the long term average, but the distribution of the rain has been really weird! I went almost eight weeks with no rain over February and March.

Exactly too, unless students are financed by their parents, they rent. I can't answer any of those questions, but my mates place in the big shed was on Googlebox (which I have not watched and will not do so). Apparently, people were exclaiming about the cost of the project. But that money wouldn't buy you Kat's place at a guess. And my mates have cattle, goats, pigs, ducks, geese and chickens plus all of the associated infrastructure. It is a really productive place. So what does that say about the value of money, and the sort of values that people have when they say: X (a double fronted house in Northcote) is good, but Y (a productive farm in Daylesford) is bad? Dunno, but I was hoping you could clarify that point for me?

Yes, the book is too expensive for my tastes but it may not be read by the sort of people that probably need to read it. Of course, it could be pitched as a text book, and then the price is not out of the ordinary at all? Dunno, and I don't really know who the intended audience for the book is.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

I particularly liked the photo of your homestead with the tall trees surrounding it.

Ant nests do a wonderful job on tree stumps here, they break them down to a fine tilth.

It is finally warming up but regrettably still raining.

Had a friend telling me about the wonderful turnover they made in their business last year. He is a close enough friend for me to be able to say what I think. So I told him that I wasn't remotely interested in the turnover figure only in the profit. Business ignorance is terrifying.

Inge

margfh said...

Hi Chris,

Yeah, we don't know what to make of BIL's situation - how did they get in so deep?

Sorry to hear about your cold. Many people had pretty terrible colds this winter that lasted for weeks so hoping this isn't the case for you.

Regarding the "back to the land" dream. Well we certainly had it when we moved out here. Like Claire, where we live isn't the most desirable in the Chicago area but the price was right for sure. We also overlooked the bright orange counter tops, shag carpeting, curtains and avocado appliances. I had been gardening for a few years at our prior house and we both had experience with horses but we mostly learned as we went along. One of the first lessons is at least with livestock you don't save money though the quality is far superior. I left my teaching job for five years when I was in the thick of having the brothers live with us and decided I would have a market garden. Well that sure was a learning experience as the work was relentless and very little money was made. Still it gave a couple of the brothers who were at loose ends something to do. I have been re reading Gene Logsdon's book, "Gene, Everlasting" and he does describe the experiences of people coming out to live in the country near him with big ideas that didn't work out - often because at least one of the couple would have to work at another job. He also said they would be in their 40's as by then would have been able to afford some property (I don't think he's in a real expensive part of the country) but didn't realize how back-breaking the work could be and they didn't know how to do the work correctly and ended up injuring themselves.

I'm sorry but I have to laugh at Ollie's antics but then I'm not dealing with the aftermath.

Margaret

margfh said...

@Lew

No Starbucks in our town but a specialty coffee shop opened up a few years ago that is pretty pleasant. It's where our book club meets. I'm pleased and surprised that they seem to be making a go of it. Recently they had coffee mugs made up for those of us who were just hanging out there and they said it was because of our book club (which focuses on nature or environmental topics). They also have regular open mike nights and the local story teller as well.

@Clair

That's a good point about the meter readers though for about a year we had no meter reader and were getting estimated readings that were way off base so we read our own and sent it in. They supply a form with the bill for that. Then all of a sudden the meter reader was back.

We're experiencing similar below normal weather here but it's even colder so no blossoms on any trees yet. The only thing finally growing is the chives.

Margaret

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - I don't get sick much, either. But when I do ... Those colds are what I call the "Earth to Lew, Earth to Lew" colds. You must feel so muzzy headed. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

We had a bit of snow, night before last. I missed it, but it stuck to the car windows and froze. It was a Puget Sound Convergence Zone, event. Cliff Mass is always banging on about those, and I never really "got" it. But, he has a map, that makes it all clear. Weather swirls north and south of the Olympic mountains (where Forks is :-) and clashes head on over Puget Sound. Like Bulls or Elk fighting for the hand of fair cow. There were a couple of deaths. The passes were a nightmare. And, we got that bit of snow, even this far south.

Expensive books? The library. Or, watch the used book sales. I recently wanted to read a novel, "Year One," by Norah Roberts. Now usually, she writes romances and also, a popular detective series, under another name. But this is a TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World as We Know it). Quit out of character for her. Wonder what her fans think? Any-who. The point. I didn't want to spend a lot of money for a one time read ... knew that there would be piles of it, second hand, if I'm patient. The library hold list is so long, I'll probably not get to it in my lifetime. So, I just tucked it in the back of my mind. And, at the book sale I went to a couple of weeks ago, there it was. Hardback, $2. Basic plot? Worldwide epidemic and the reemergence of magic.

Re: Meter readers. There's also pensions and retirement funds to consider. While I was living in the boonies, the electric company switched to "smart" meters. I really missed the bi-monthly visit from the meter reader. Beau would let me know he had pulled into the yard and we'd chat for a few minutes, mostly about the weather. Some companies actually have a policy of moving people around, so their customers don't get too chummy with particular employees. For security. Or, just because.

I took up the accordian and piano. Didn't stick with either. My friend Scott plays guitars. Collects them, too. (Though he's selling off). Goes on a one week retreat, every fall, to Port Townsend. To learn new riffs, or something. Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. I don't know what Simon Pegg, is up to. I'll have to check Wikipedia or IMDB.com. (internet Movie Data Base). Always a great source when that actor is on the tip of your tongue. Or, you see someone and wonder "Where have I seen him/her, before?"

Well. When I picked up the vase, formerly known as Tiffin, I discovered a small paper label. "Royal Gallery, Poland." So much for that. But I am not displeased. Correct information in hand, I found it on E-Bay. No sales figures but someone has the same piece for $45, including shipping. Far more than I paid. And, it's dated. Around 30 years old. The Haviland set? A one off. Victorian and Edwardian ladies had the hobby of painting china. Haviland provided blanks. That whole set was painted by one lady. It went to a private party, who loves it, and will pass it on to a younger relative who collects .. rabbits. :-). It will stick in my mind for a long time. The one that got away :-). Julia did not win the piece. But, doesn't feel bad about it.

LOL. Waiting around for the inheritance. What the Victorians called "expectations." Hence the name of Dickens's novel, "Great Expectations." Speaking of the Victorians, I finished "The Greedy Queen." Not a bad read. A lot of menus to wade through (skip over) but it had a lot to say about what the Queen ate, her Household ... the rest of the Establishment. What the upper, middle and lower classes tucker was like. Changes in dining style and kitchen technology. Given the length of her reign, there were many changes.

Sleek and fat wombats? Do they taste like chicken? I notice Stephanie Alexander has no wombat recipes. An oversight, I'm sure. :-).

Interesting about what the "Limits of Growth" had to say about agricultural land. Archaeologists seem to think that when the Roman world started to unravel, the marginal farm land fell out of production, first. An empire collapses, a good old fashioned plague rips through, and previous land under cultivation returns to forest. Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. Whew! The last bit. There was something interesting I ran across in "The Greedy Queen". About Osborne House (which is probably within shouting distance of Inge.) It really kind of changed my "take" on the Royal family, of that time. There was a lot of factors in play. Both Victoria and Albert had had very sheltered and unhappy childhoods. They didn't want the same for their nine children. Victoria didn't like babies, or, sulky teens, but quit liked the in between. Albert, was not well liked when he came on the scene. And, really didn't have much of a role to fill. But he became quit respected in the area of agriculture. He read and visited farms and talked to farmers. He was always willing to explore new things and ideas.

So. They really wanted their children to know where food came from. They built a Swiss chalet at Osborne. Very fashionable, at the time. It was staffed by a couple and every child was given a garden plot for which they were responsible. The man helped and instructed them in the gardening part and his wife taught the children (boys and girls) to cook simple things. There were lots of animals about. Sure, it was a "gentlemen's" or "hobby" farm, but really ran counter to the child rearing ideas of the time. And, the family got a lot of criticism for it. And were lampooned in the gutter press.

Victoria, given her druthers, really preferred simpler foods. But could plow through a State banquet with the best of them. But in private or family dining, dishes could be pretty simple. On one hand, she stuck with the tried and true. On the other, she was quit an adventuresome eater and would at least sample anything that was put in front of her. If she liked it (and, she often did) she'd pass along the recipes to her cooks and it would appear in rotation. She took a lively interest in the kitchens. Which were abysmal at the beginning of her reign, and much improved by the end. She loved fruit.

So, am I gong to buy a copy for my cookbook/food collection. I don't think so. The recipes are useless (to me) and I think I can remember the high points. Worth a read if you can get it free (aka, the library.) Lew

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris!

Gosh, I hope that you are feeling better. I do that when I am sick, too - if I can: I go out into the garden and pick most every green herb and eat it. I love fried eggs on greens, also, but with hot pepper sauce, too. I think that maybe you have been pushing yourself too hard and that's why you succumbed to the virus. At least you have citrus - and Ollie.

I haven't finished listening to your Money and Property discussion, but what I have heard has been very worthwhile. I can only listen when attached to my laptop which is attached to a modem as we don't have WiFi, and the modem is nowhere near the kitchen, which is where I spend a lot of my day . . .

I have all of "The Good Life" on DVDs. I always loved that show, holes though it has. But I do remember that occasionally Tom and Barbara had to moonlight to bring in outside income as they actually found it impossible to be completely "self-sufficient". I thought that the next door neighbors were priceless; they were so bewildered by all the farming activities.

Thanks for the Survivor's Guide; that sort of bewildered me. There were too many unstated aspects to it. Does she have outside income? Is she part of a vast barter system? Where does she get the wood for the woodstove? And Lew made a good point about property taxes. I did like the McDonald fellow's statement: "soil scientist Declan McDonald said soil was "the most complex ecosystem on the planet".

If you took the solar panel out of the dirt rat photo it would look like you were way out in the bush. What is all that netted up in the golden trees photo? Oh my - the Ollie footprints are way worse than I imagined. No wonder you couldn't save a signature or two. I laughed about him all day, and poor Plymie. How embarrassing - caught on camera with her feathers off! Oh, and - were you using stones and concrete to temporarily brace those steps?

Are all of your beautiful roses scented? It is only about 4 weeks until ours bloom. Geraniums are blooming in the house; I think they can move outside in a couple of weeks. Umm . . . hi, Mr. Toothy . . .

No, it wasn't a wombat who excavated my potatoes. Or a bird, as they were planted extra deep as an experiment. Or little Mole who lives in the radish patch (wonder where Ratty and Mr. Toad and Badger are?). When I went down to check on the potatoes the next day a 20ft.(6m) section of 8ft. (2.4m) high fence was lying flat on the ground. It had been a kind of makeshift repair job previously, so I wired it back together, just as good as before, which means that it is going to fall down again real soon.

My son is leaving the beam to season. As a matter of fact, we have no particular use for it right now. He was telling me about chainsaw mills, an apparatus which attaches directly to the chainsaw, and so is easily portable. My, does he have a gleam in his eye about that!

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Claire:

Of course! I did miss that - doing away with human labor in favor of "robots". Thanks!

Pam

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Inge,

Thank you and I'm glad you enjoyed the photo. I was standing out in the orchard at the time monitoring the chickens whilst they free roamed and I was struck by the beauty of the scene. Those trees are big! The biggest tree over there is around 150ft to 165ft at a guess. And they tell me that those trees can get almost twice as large again (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eucalyptus_obliqua - Eucalyptus Obliqua) given the right conditions. Sorry, the link that you could click on doesn't appear to work as wikipedia has used https rather than http in its internet address...

Oh, that's interesting, the article suggests that the density of the timber is much harder than I had previously been led to believe. estimates of density range from 720 kg/m3[9] to 830 kg/m3. Apologies for the metric, but I reckon the lower range (720kg) works out to 1,218 pounds / cubic yard. No wonder the timber feels heavy to me!

Ants are pretty handy creatures for consuming the cellulose in tree stumps and turning them back into soil. On the other hand, the Ash Wednesday fires were 35 years ago and those tree stumps are still there! Hehe! I have to fess up to not being a fan of the ants here, because the large ones will actively seek you out and bite you in multiple locations all the while injecting formic acid and then just for good measure they'll spray the same formic acid over the entire bite site. The chemical burns from that experience are horrendous and the pain eventually works into whatever is the nearest joint. Yup, not a fan. Still, the ants appear not to be a fan of me either!

Someone once remarked to me that ants are the worms of the drylands, and it was a good observation.

Glad to hear that the weather has warmed up (a bit) in your part of the world. It is still very pleasant here and each day is hovering around 70'F with cool nights.

Yeah. Plenty of businesses chase sales and ignore profit. Sometimes some businesses do have to purchase sales in order to get established, but that is only ever a short term strategy. You know, I reckon what you wrote reflects the whole: "Get big or get out" narrative. What do you reckon about that, or do you feel that it is a different narrative altogether? Sometimes the stories people have running in their heads about how the world works can be their undoing.

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Margaret,

I have no idea how your BIL's situation occurred either. What I do know about debt is that you only ever get a one off benefit, because effectively the arrangement works such that a person gets to access future income. But then the future income is less because under the arrangement a person has already committed part or all of it. So the arrangement suggests that it is subject to diminishing returns. What I take out of that lesson is that a small amount of debt is manageable, but a large amount of debt is a disaster - because you've sold off the future. Now, if people believe that the future may not arrive as expected, then that may be a problem for them because generally it does arrive on schedule!

One way around having a lot of people with no future income because they’ve sold it off - and thus unable to purchase stuff which may cause havoc in a consumer economy - is to ensure that there are more people coming into the system, or to reduce the lending standards. Both of those strategies are in play in society, but your BIL may fall into the second strategy.

When I first saw vehicle leases and it wasn't that many years ago, they were strictly three years. The current ones I see now are five years. However I read that in the US they are now seven years. Each extension of time is a tool with which to reduce the monthly payments so that it makes it easier for folks to get access to the loan, or they can spend more on accessories or brands.

It is a dark and murky world that you and I have waded into with this discussion! I'm interested in your opinions of these matters?

Thanks, and I'm still sick today, but am feeling better than yesterday and hopefully will feel better again tomorrow. Again I had to cancel a job today, but better to rest and recover quicker than trying to push things.

I applaud your choices and values - and that is exactly how I do things too. Yup, livestock makes no economic sense either! My neighbour used to purchase his eggs from a local roadside stall - which is in the middle of nowhere. The stall shut down recently, and he asked me about why I reckon that happened. I said to him that it makes no economic sense and they wouldn't have been able to turn a profit given the hours and inputs that go into the chickens. To be honest, he looked doubtful at that explanation, but it is true. On the other hand, the eggs that I bought last week are good, but the shells aren't as hard as the ones the chickens here produce, and the yolks looked slightly less yellow than my lot too. I keep telling people that the quality of food has dropped over the years and most people appear doubtful about that claim, although as you note with home grown produce the: "quality is far superior".

I ordered a copy of the book. Thanks again for mentioning it as it sounds lovely. Mr Logsdon mentioned in the last book of his that I read that to setup a farm for the long term, you actually require an off farm income to pay for stuff. The thing is if one person works full time, then all of the labour falls to the other person unless they have extended family but they will consume time and resources too. The editor and I were aware of that problem and we both work in paid work 3 days per week, leaving the rest for the farm and recreation. Try being a guy and getting part time employment! That is an almost impossible task which is why I set up our own business. And the physical labour is a problem, but we never stopped working. You know I ask people whether they're up for such work and if they even run a productive garden now in their backyards. I don't win friends with such talks... Oh well!

What fascinating ground we have covered today! Hehe!

Nah, the cement was still able to be worked and Ollie found himself confined. I'm quite fond of Ollie. I reckon he may end up being one of the best dogs that I've known.

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Lewis,

Yah, that about sums up how I feel. Thank you for the nice thoughts. Muzzy is a good word too. My head feels as if someone has stuffed it full of wool. Anyway, I feel better today than yesterday. I took another day off today. Don't you reckon it is best to rest and recover rather than trying to push on?

A timely reminder of the weather, and I was sorry to read about the fatal car accident there due to the extreme weather. Cliff Mass also suggested that the current La Nina is drawing to a close – which you mentioned a few days ago. In recent years down here we have had either weak La Nina, or neutral conditions. I'll tell ya what though, given the weather we've had since early February, it looks like an El Nino to me. Even today, the day is warm and sunny and I've got the house open to the fresh warm air.

16.5 inches of snow on one of those passes. The name Snoqualmie is a dead give away that from time to time it is not going to be good! The topography of your part of the world is amazing, and that makes sense about the area being a convergence zone. Those Olympics are no small sticky chicken mountain ranges. They're taller than anything on this continent. I'd call that a chunky chook mountain range for sure!

The library here is open during hours that I'm usually busy doing other things and most other people are working. They do open Saturday mornings. At the moment I can stump the cash for books as long as they're not too expensive, and $85 is too much for a single book. Plus I get to enjoy them again in the future, and if I don't, I sell them on for someone else to enjoy.

I've read similar stories to that plot line. I recall reading somewhere that for the average peasant that survived the Black Death in the middle ages, their lot improved as there suddenly became more resources per capita, and the cost of labour went up which further improved their living standards. Good to see a reemergence of magic. I enjoyed that aspect of the 'World made by hand' series of novels as it added in an element of the unknown.

Well that is always a consideration given how we as a society appear to have lost the plot and over promised future benefits. The numbers relating to future liabilities in relation to promised future expenditure are always disturbing to read. I know some people who receive those sort of fixed pension benefits and from time to time I have suggested to them that they should plan for a day if those benefits disappear. I have to say that by and large they tend to get very angry with that suggestion. I sometimes enjoy a nervous existence!

Go Scott. Hey are you planning to do one of those club retreats in the future?

These things happen. I'm assuming that Royal Gallery, Poland is a lesser quality glass than a Tiffin? The images on the web look incredibly detailed.

Oh! I just heard an emergency notification on the radio for a tropical cyclone off the east coast of Queensland. It is only a category two cyclone: Tropical Cyclone Iris continues to track along Queensland coast. The radio station is a national one so it covers much of the continent with the same programs just shifted for time across the many time zones.

Speaking of the radio, the new internet yagi antenna is creating a small amount of interference on the radio. What did you say about benefits and costs... At least the internet is fast as now. Most of the problems here are like the old kids rhyme about the girl that eats the spider...

Ah yes, there are a few expectations floating around. Nothing for the likes of me... Then I'm not sure that such a gift would come strings free.

cont...

Fernglade Farm said...

Wombats take over old dug outs and then refurbish them as required. They don't usually dig new ones from what I understand of matters. They're very sensible creatures, but mind you they mark their territory using their scent glands and that smells a bit funky. The dogs seem to like that smell, but there is no accounting for taste in these matters. Yes, a lot of strange meats taste like chicken, but wombat would taste rather gamey I reckon. I'm curious at the wide variety of meat that they consumed in the 'Awakening Land' trilogy. Sometimes it read as if they ate anything that moved.

Actually, yeah, that is interesting about what the book had to say about agricultural land. It certainly matches what I'm seeing here, and that may also indicate that the area currently under cultivation is about as far as we can take things. Of course, we can always go further with these things but it might not produce a profit and who will want to pay for that? A farm isn't just the land, but it is also all of the infrastructure that goes towards the thing. I was quite disturbed recently to read that a huge number of commercial organic farms were buying in their seed from overseas. Now, if you think about it, saving seed means storing some of the harvest which can't be consumed, plus it takes a lot of specialty labour and storage space, but that also reduces the profitability from the farm. I try really hard to save as much seed from the annual plants here. Most of the corn was put away for planting out next spring.

Queen Victoria wasn't the ruler of the vastest empire that the world has seen because she was a dummy! I almost pissed myself laughing about: "didn't like babies, or, sulky teens, but quite liked the in between". Funny stuff. I've read that Prince Charles who is in Australia at the moment for the Commonwealth Games is also deeply into the realm of agriculture and particularly organic agriculture. A farm is a good place to learn about life, death, and energy. It certainly doesn't allow a person to ignore basic realities. I reckon that strategy of getting the kids to learn about gardening and cooking is a great idea. Didn't way back in the day, the Royals generally sent their kids out to work as grooms and maids so that they gained a greater appreciation for their circumstances, peers, and subjects? That seems like a sound strategy to me too.

Thanks for the great word! Druthers, I'd never heard of that word before. I prefer simpler foods too. When I travelled in India, the locals kept feeding me what they thought I should eat which was too rich for my tastes and usually chock full of ghee. Nasty stuff and makes me feel unsettled. If I had my druthers, I would prefer a bowl of dahl - how hard could that be? Apparently quite hard. Fortunately I rapidly settled on fried rice which had the advantage of being cooked and inoffensive to my guts. Incidentally, Queen Victoria must have had good taste because Chilean guava were an apparent favourite. Grown in Cornwall apparently. They're in fruit here right now and they are superb tasting fruit - almost like a good lemonade. Yum!

My reading list has filled up completely! Therefore I appreciate the honest assessment of the book! Hehe! Far out. The one benefit about being sick is that I've been enjoying sitting in the sun (medium UV now - it drops away rapidly) and catching up on my reading. I feel like I should be doing something really useful with my time about the place, but then I get up to go and do it, and I feel the full impact of the cold. Back to sitting in the sun and reading as that seems like a more sensible way to go!

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Pam,

Many thanks for the well wishes. I feel better today, but am taking it easy. It is amazing how many herbs you can stuff into one salad. The taste is not for everyone though, but I enjoy the taste of herbs. And a couple of eggs on top of the herbs is perfection. People can be a bit strange about eggs and prefer them cooked as if they were rubber, but I always like the albumen cooked and the yolk runny. Yum! What is your take on this most important of matters? And don't mention the dreaded egg loaf things used in fast food establishments because I don't even know what such things are...

Ollie has been lovely and lower key - especially after I fed him a bone to chew on which kept him out of mischief. Sir Scruffy has been the most supportive and he has been following me around and last night he slept on the floor at the foot of the bed. It doesn't get much nicer than that. You are probably correct.

Fair enough, hey, they're a great bunch of people and it was a lively discussion. I feel that there are no easy answers, unless like many of us here you choose to live in the more unfashionable end of things! Hehe! It is always an option, it just doesn't look that nice and comes with an in built loss of status, but I reckon we're all cool!

It was a good fun show wasn't it? And the neighbours were priceless in their general cluelessness! Funny stuff.

Exactly, there were plenty of questions left unanswered. I wondered about the wood stove too, because the red gum that people prefer to burn can take up to 600 years to grow. Little wonder that it is as dense as it is. The trees here grow 3ft to 4ft per year and sometimes more in a wet year. I also mentioned to Lewis about the fact that back in the day when people had vegetable gardens to supplement their diets, there was also a lot of horse manure floating around, and that would have fed the soils. Cars break that cycle of bringing in fertility into a city from outlying areas and so garden soils in a city are probably impoverished - especially if the organic matter is not recycled by composting but is getting chucked into the tip. So many questions and unless that garden is fertilised, then sooner or later, some mineral is going to be strip mined from the soils.

Hehe! Yeah it does look like I've driven the dirt rat across some remote picnic spot! Naughty Chris! The surrounding forest is very dense don't you reckon? The netting was part of the failed strawberry patch. I reckon it produced one strawberry this year, but we couldn't dismantle it because the new strawberry terrace was completed late and the October heatwave took us by surprise and half the strawberries planted on the terrace died. That area with the nets will be used for melons and pumpkins in future years.

cont...

Fernglade Farm said...

It was bad alright! Naughty Ollie! No the rocks form part of the stairs as fill just to save on cement. They're granite so they're not going anywhere soon. We usually insert a chunk of steel so that one step is connected to the one below it by a chunk of scrap steel (plus the concrete). It is a good use of scrap, and that scrap is an old star picket which had been bent out of shape, so I cut it into smaller sections for this use.

Boss Plymie is a lady and it was very wrong of me to post that photo. At least she still had the two good feathers. :-)!

Most of the roses here have a scent which is always nice. Only four weeks to go and then your roses will be blooming! Mr Toothy says hi! He's naughty too, that one! Hehe!

It is inconceivable to me that Kenneth Grahame previously worked as secretary of the Bank of England. Ouch, yup whatever critter knocked the fence over in the first place, will have a better understanding of the fence next time around. Although maybe you are in the hungry part of the year too and the animals are doing it tough. On the other we don't use many fences, but when we do, not much can stand up against treated pine and steel.

They have those chainsaw mills down here too. Good stuff. I'm quite the fan of portable timber mills - Lucas Mill seems to be the big one down here. They're band saws though. There are always demonstrations of them in action at the agricultural shows. Interestingly, one of the mills had a couple moving huge logs with long handled log hooks. I can see the advantage of those. I mentioned about the bloke down in Tasmania a few weeks ago who constructed the accommodation cabins on the remote island off the coast, and he used a small timber mill. He produced really nice looking post and rail fencing for his horses.

Cheers

Chris

Damo said...

Hi Chris,

I hope your cold does not develop into full blown man flu! I got a flu injection the other day (under instruction from Mrs Damo) to help prevent such an occurrence. Apparently it protects against four stains. Last year I had an absolutely rotten 2 months getting three bad cold/flu's in a row when we were in Laos, despite me having the shots. Mrs Damo thinks at least one of those was probably dengue fever, so i guess there is always something out there to get you no matter what precautions you make.

I am on the West Coast of NZ again this week for work. Mrs Damo and I like it here, reminds us of tasmania. It is almost affordable as well with tiny run down workers cottages for 150-200,000. So if I could bring my Christchurch city job here, I could afford the poorest place in NZ! :-( some people tell me I shouldn't wish for a housing crash because it would 'crash' the economy, what sort of family friendly reply can I give to that no win scenario!

Cheers,
Damo

Stephen E said...

Hello Chris, I can only ever see a fraction of the discussion on your blog, so don't know if these comments have already been made, but ... you think like an accountant! I'm certain that Kat is not growing food to sell in order to pay her mortgage. She probably rents with a group of friends anyway. It's not a business venture, it is just an extensive home garden that demonstrates how much you can grow in a suburban property if you put in enough effort. She is an example of what David Holmgren is talking about in the "Retrosuburbia" book. His contention is that Business-as-Usual will end soon, by collapse of the banking system or depletion of fossil fuels etc, and we will have to find a new way to get by without our current global supply lines and abundant fossil fuel energy. And since most of us live in suburbs we have to figure out a way of making suburbia functional in this future. So he is taking a permaculture approach to this problem. It is like a more fully realised version of Transition Towns. Whether it will really be possible for vast suburban tracts to operate in this way we will have to wait and see, but he has a very good point that suburbs are where most of us live and so we will need to make them work somehow in an energy-poor future. As for the cost of the book, it is BIG - 600 pages of solid information with full colour pictures on almost every page. Also, David wanted to support the Oz printing industry instead of getting it printed overseas, which added to the cost.
There are actually a lot of parallels between David's property and yours. The Daylesford area may be seen as highly desirable now (I wouldn't know) but was out of fashion when the Holmgrens moved there in the early 1980s. I recall reading David's description of arriving there just as a flash car was heading in the opposite direction towards Melbourne, and David saw it as symbolic of the times; the back -to-the-land 70s were over and the greed-is-good cocaine-snorting Porsche-driving sharemarket-speculating 80s had arrived (you can tell I despised the 80s!). David and his family built that property up by hand over decades, with the intention of being as self-supporting as possible so again it is not a money making property, except I think there is a small orchard of almonds or something to sell as a commercial crop. NOW it seems like a great property in a great area, but not at the start. One day YOUR place will find itself to be in a gentrified area with cafes - maybe, if BAU hangs on long enough.
If you want to see how someone with no money and no property CAN make a living growing food in the suburbs, check out Curtis Stone, the "Urban Farmer". He works very hard though, so deserves his success.
Cheers - I've enjoyed reading your blog for a long time, and appreciate your occasional book recommendations. Have you read any of the other books by the author of the home scale grain growing book? Best wishes, Stephen.

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Damo,

I hope not either, and am feeling better today. Maybe it is a guy thing, but other people tell me to get the flu shot too. No doubt that Mrs Damo is correct in the matter and I applaud her good common sense. Yeah, apparently it does protect against four strains, but they're constantly mutating. Oh my! Dengue fever sounds revolting and reads like a really bad flu. I'll bet you went down like a sack of spuds that week? And Mrs Damo would have been at risk of an infected mosquito bite that had previously been feasting upon you. Not good and Beer Lao would not have helped in such a situation.

Mate, in Laos I had the worst stomach bug. I couldn't keep anything down and got sick pretty fast.

Yeah that would be one heck of a commute between the west coast and Christchurch, and sometimes the passes would be snowed over too. The thing is any crash will have winners and losers and it is up to all of us to wonder in which camp you will end up in. You see what I learned in the early 1990's was that the pain was not spread evenly among the population so when people tell you that a crash will be bad, the question you have to have at the back of your mind (which you can't ever ask for fear of backlash) is: Bad for whom?

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I hope that your health continues to improve. Colds really are a ghastly ordeal. I also believe that flu viruses mutate rapidly and that flu jabs spend their time trying to catch up and failing.

Still raining here.

Not sure about get big or get out re businesses. Get big seems to mean turnover and ignores the ever increasing debt. I am utterly staggered at debt ignorance these days. It seems to be considered a virtue until it overwhelms.

@ Lew
Many years ago my husband and I used to row to the beach at Osborne. No-one around then. I believe that now one is charged for access to that beach.

Inge

margfh said...

Hi Chris,

We received around an inch of snow last night and as it's only in the mid 20'sF it's sticking. Add to that a strong NW wind and it's not exactly spring like. Sun came out though and the snow was sparkling when I took my walk through the tree farm. Tomorrow we have a showing so I'll be spending today and tomorrow morning putting the place into "showing order". A couple of properties that had been on the market for some time sold recently so who knows.

In addition to longer leases the car loans are up to seven years now!! My BIL's cars are 14 and 20 years old respectively so that's not their problem. They did have to maintain separate households for 9 years as after he lost his job near home the best job offer he got was in Arkansas (they live in North Carolina). Now supposedly they couldn't sell their house so his wife could move but not sure how hard they tried. He was laid off from his job in Arkansas and has a job back near home but at 50% of the salary.

We do raise meat chickens, turkeys and pigs and the sale of the surplus generally covers the cost of our meat and maybe a bit more. I think many would try to increase their production and the infrastructure necessary would kill them financially.

Smart to lay low until you feel better. I've always felt that two people with part time jobs like you and the editor would work out very well. There's always so much more cost with two full time jobs - child care especially. However here your health insurance is tied to your full time job.

Reading Mr. Logsdon's book reminded me that I'm not young anymore and while I'm in good shape for my age I've got to accept the limits that come with getting older.

Margaret

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Best not to push when you start to recover. Relapse is always possible and just extends the whole mess. A couple of days of extended recovery time can make a world of difference.

Oh, I do worry a bit about pensions and housing disappearing. For me. Go back to work. Back to flat shares or a homeless camp. The "easy" way out? But, if it's meant to be, way opens, opportunities appear.

The retreat Scott goes on isn't related to The Club. It's just a kind of Pacific Northwest music thing. Seminars, workshops and classes. Jam sessions. The retreat I had to bail out of, last year, due to sickness was just a bunch of guys in 12 Step Programs, organizing a weekend retreat ... that's been rolling on for a dozen odd years. The local Club does sponsor the odd potluck. Usually something going on at the holidays. Picnics when the weather is nice. I don't go to to many. Too many people I don't know in one place. Too many kids, about.

Tiffin made some nice stuff. They were kind of known for their satin finish glass (acid wash) in the 20's and 30's. Mostly in pink and green. A bit of blue. Those seemed to be THE colors for that time period. I asked myself, this morning, if I would have bought the piece if I realized it was Polish. Well, it certainly is a striking piece. And, it's got some age on it. Czechaslovakia, Romania and Poland had pretty extensive glass manufacturing during the 1800s and into the 20th century. Fell into decline when they were Communist, but seem to be coming back. Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. "The Awakening Land." Well, they used about everything in their environment to stay fed. As living standards rose, some foods fell out of favor as being "low rent." I have a few old cookbooks that have recipes for possum. Quit a few years back, there was the "Road Kill Cookbook." Kind of published as a novelty item, but the recipes were viable. When someone hits a deer around here, someone always seems to ask if they were able to salvage any of the meat.

That's rather distressing about organic farms buying seed from overseas. At the cost of seed, these days, it really makes sense to save all you can. I saved a lot of basil seed from last year. And, some tomatoes. And, no, I haven't started mine inside, yet.

Prince Charles has taken a lot of flack for his "hippie" ways. Reminds me of one of our past city counselors who was kind of an old hippie. He told me that once he had proposed community gardens (several decades ago) and was told in no uncertain terms that that "hippie stuff" wasn't welcomed. You have to go pretty far back to have royal children farmed out to other families. Sometimes it was a semi-hostage situation. Sometimes, an attempt to form alliances. Maybe the well born page might take a shine to the daughter of the castle. Teaching the youngsters manners and their place in society was also on the agenda.

Simon Pegg. He has a supporting role in two upcoming movies. "Ready Player One" is being released about now. "Termanal Man" is coming out in the summer. But in September, we're getting one of those Simon Pegg / Nick Frost vehicles we all know and love. "Slaughterhouse Rulze." Something to look forward to. Lew

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

My take is the same - runny yolks, yum! But not a runny nose! For lunch today I had a runny fried egg on top of portabella mushrooms sauteed with onions and garlic on top of a bed of greens with some sunflower sprouts - BECAUSE some mouse stored his sunflower seeds in the bin where I am growing baby spinach and there is a regular sunflower forest in the bin, so I figured "Why not eat them?" - and on top of all that a mushroom sauce, and jalapeno sauce. Now there's a runny sentence for you.

The funny thing is that I live in the fashionable end of things. It was rather a fluke that we found this property - through a friend's wife's hairdresser who knew that it was owned by an old lady who could use some cash. So - our neighbors are mostly swells, with a few country folk who have been up here for generations, and we have felt most comfortable settling into mostly country ways.

Yeah, that's why we are capitalizing on the manure from the stockyard in the next county. My son has brought home 7 more pickup truckloads this week and figures to get another 30 over the next 2 weeks. The gas/petrol there and back costs almost as much as the composted manure, but the folks there have become friends - especially the boss chihuahua that they have just adopted - and so it is no hardship to drive on over there. They are taking in less animals than they used to as they wind down the business prior to - they are hopeful - a sale, so the manure piles are already getting smaller. We shall have to find out where the animals are being sent now.

That is so smart to use a piece of steel to connect the steps. I never would have thought of that and mine would have all slid downhill!

Nope, an animal did not knock the fence down. It was a case of sub fluffy optimal craftmanship.

I remember the fellow with the tourist cabins that you mentioned in Tasmania.

Pam

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Inge,

Thank you and your understanding of the flu virus matches my understanding of the flu. Of course, you can be lucky and keep ahead of the constant mutations of the virus with the flu shot, but I have no understanding of how quickly the virus can adapt. And also I don't really know whether a full set of antibodies are transferred from mothers to their children? I mean if a full set doesn't get transferred then it is possible that the flu virus could mutate into an older form of the virus and a person would not have antibodies to match that strain. Dunno.

Wow! You have had a very damp spring. Perhaps that is where all of our rain has suddenly disappeared to? This week has been another warm and dry week, although it looks like some rain may fall in a week or so, but not before a possible record breaking April hot spell (on Tuesday apparently). I picked the first ripe cantaloupe today and despite my partially blocked and irritated nose it smelled pretty good. I have to admit to being soft because I have not yet experienced the thrills of the jalapenos…

I'm unsure how other people view debt. My take on debt is that you are inviting to sup dinner with the devil, but that may be an extreme viewpoint. I have read that retailers and lenders are combining forces to produce payment and loan systems that are a smooth transaction that doesn't involve the sense of 'loss' that people feel when they hand over physical money. Watch this space, I reckon. I already see tap and go systems in use all over the shop and millennials in particular are being targeted by what could politely be described as loan sharks on an app.

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Margaret,

Oh my, your spring has gone elsewhere for a while! That is so cold, of course if you were writing about metric measurements then it would be a rather pleasant day like it was here today. Of course that is about a 50'F degree difference so that is stretching reality a bit far. The state government was doing another burn-off in Wombat state forest today so smoke haze has been drifting across the farm all day long. I broke earlier today and took a cold and flu tablet as my head began spinning as a combination of smoke from the fires and the cold was too much for me. At least the sunset looked nice and orange. I'm happy that they have finally got around to doing some back burning there. That forest needs it badly.

Good luck with the open house / showing and I wish you the best of luck. Rural areas take time and I'm glad you have decided to begin some productive animal activities in all of the shedding. People love that gear, and it will help sell the house. I always begin tours here at the chicken enclosure and if kids are present I encourage them to get into the enclosure and pick some eggs from underneath a hot and broody chicken.

Yeah! That matches what I read about the seven years in the US, although down here those contracts are generally five years, although I have seen a few occasions where people are refinancing the balloon payment at the end of the contract rather than selling the car. It happens. 10 years for the dirt mouse and 14 years for the dirt rat. They're not worth anything now, but I keep them maintained and in working order. What else do you do?

Hmm. Well, I have heard stories of folks that travel long distances in order to find a partner, and I guess that job is a similar sort of story? Dunno. Honestly either of those choices are stories that I cannot understand. The distance between the two states seems insurmountable to me. That isn't a moral judgement, it is just that you have to understand that whilst I have travelled, I've never lived outside of the state that I currently live in. And even then I'm under 40 miles from the middle of the Melbourne central business district. I can get there in under an hour by train or car even though this is a very remote spot. If I was forced to choose between the job in Arkansas and the job that paid 50% less, I would always choose the 50% less job, but that is merely who I am.

Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, I believe that meat is priced better than other forms of farm produce. I picked up bones for the dogs at the local butchers today and I saw cuts of porterhouse at about $33/kg (2.2 pounds) and Scotch filet was about $36/kg (2.2 pounds). They looked like good cuts too and clearly meat is priced at more appropriate prices than fruit and vegetables. How do those prices compare with your part of the world?

I reckon your larger point about the upfront and ongoing capital costs relating to higher volumes of produce really struck the mark and I totally agree with you.

Health care here is relatively affordable so most people rarely put thought into that side of the story. How it works is that everyone chips in 2.5% of their pre-tax earnings, and that gets paid towards universal health care. There are still some costs relating to a doctors or hospital visit, and of course you have to pay for medicines, but still, it is cheap. The government bulk buys medicines that are on a list and then distributes them to chemists who are not allowed to purchase directly - that works to keep costs down too. People lobby to get certain medications that are crazy expensive onto that list but it may or may not work. On the other hand there is no such thing as a free lunch and our housing costs are crazy relative to yours. Such outcomes are all a direct result of policies.

I hear you about getting older and sometimes when I look into the mirror, I ask myself who is this old fella looking back at me? Life is in the living I reckon.

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Pam,

Oh yeah, avoid the runny nose and definitely stick to runny eggs! Not everyone feels that way about eggs though. I'm totally salivating thinking about the combination of food. Portabella mushrooms are a favourite and in Melbourne there is a cafe that serves a delightful lunch of those mushrooms and scrambled eggs on sourdough toast. I believe the mushrooms and eggs are grown on site too. The place used to be an old landfill, and way back in the 1970's some folks campaigned to get the area rehabilitated and turned into an environmental park and there are little garden plots as well as the cafe, and also a market garden, and big chook run, all for the cafe. It's good! When the local seed saving group operated, one of the members (who was the French dude) had something to do with the place and the setup. They have a plant nursery where they raise their own seedling stock and I use them as a back-up plan if my lot fails or I need to bring in some new genetics.

Well, I am soft and have not tried the jalapenos yet because you lot of have scared the absolute stuffing out of me! Hehe!

That sounds like a nice setting. Honestly, the western end of this mountain range sounds an awful lot like that, but with some heavy hitters that can perform legislative acts of magic - whatever that is!

With the manure, all I have to suggest is what they say down here during a Bachelor and Spinsters country ball - "Go hard, or go home!" That is an awesome amount of manure, and even if it is still a bit green and uncomposted, I wouldn't worry about that as nature looks after all of that side of things for us, although it may take six to twelve months to get settled. Dunno, it depends on how fresh it is. In the long run your garden and vegetables will do better and that is all that counts. Of all the things we can do with our fossil fuels right now, that is probably the best use of them.

Haha! Yah, the steel acts as a reinforcement rod, and eventually it will rust out, but by then the soil will settle and compact around the steps so it shouldn't be a drama. I have not seen a single step move around here.

Well, the motto for 'sub fluffy optimal' is 'act in haste and repent at leisure'! I've discovered sub fluffy optimal systems here all of the time. You do what you think is going to be OK, nature tests the system, and you are found sub fluffy optimal. Nuff said! It happens! :-)!

He was a clever bloke that one and just meeting him and having a chat opened up a different way of looking at local resources. Too bad I was unable to use recycled materials in this house - and that annoyed the absolute stuffing out of both the editor and I because we had plans... The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires changed everything because the building codes up here changed within a few weeks of that event because a whole lot of people died (173 all up). The change in the building codes was an interesting experience, but I knew a bit about fire rated systems from having to construct in the inner city where the adjoining walls to the neighbours were fire rated, so it wasn't an unknown to me, it was just additional complexity. Oh well!

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Lewis,

Many thanks for the thumbs up for taking it easy and I do feel better today. Although the state government is doing back burning in the nearby Wombat State Forest, so I broke this morning and took a cold and flu tablet. How much can a Koala bear, I ask you? That is an old joke down here. I just took the dogs outside to go to the toilet (it is night time here) and my eyes still sting and the air smells of burnt eucalyptus forest - which is sort of nice smelling, if a bit over powering. And the stars were slightly obscured tonight due to the smoke haze, although I could still see the streak of the Milky Way and the blob of the greater Andromeda galaxy. But far out it is cold outside at night now. We capture the day’s heat inside the house and then close the house up about 5pm, so it is nice inside, but far out it is chilly outside. Ollie needed no prompting to come back inside the house after he did his business. We are really trying to minimise the use of firewood, and we haven't had to burn any for quite a while now.

I felt better this morning so I dropped the dirt mouse off to get the clutch replaced, and we also picked up a new water tank which had been on order for a few weeks and only recently arrived. I was still feeling better this afternoon so we visited a nearby Swiss-Italian farm and just wandered around looking at the place. I was very impressed with their Olive grove, and I noticed that they had repaired an old stone lined well, so I took a long look at how it was setup. Originally - and it dates from the 19th century - it would have been a heck of a digging job. They are rarely seen down under, although in the remote outback Aboriginals had traditionally dug and maintained very deep wells for water.

Of course, such extreme collapse scenarios are a real problem for, well, everybody I reckon. I don't reckon there is any easy path in such a circumstance other than having some sort of useful and marketable function.

Fair enough, you did mention a retreat a long while back, and I wondered whether that was something the Club put together, but your explanation clarifies matters. It is a good idea I reckon. Hey mate, it is school holidays down here and as part of picking up the new water tank this morning (which I had on the back of the bright yellow trailer) I stopped at the general store to pick up the mail and enjoy a coffee and toasted baguette. I was greeted at the door with the sounds of little stomping feet and the occasional scream, so the editor and I sat outside and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and I read part of Into the Ruins which turned up in the mail a week or so back. It was 50'F outside, but the sun was shining and at least it was quiet. Honestly I didn't feel well enough to face that crowd.

Well that is the important question which remains unanswered. What is more important, the form and beauty of the piece, or the parentage of the piece? I have no idea how to answer that, so I'm curious as to your opinion?

cont...

Fernglade Farm said...

I recall that 'Road Kill Cookbook' back in the day. Oh no! I had a quick look to see whether anyone had written such a book down here only to discover that there is a book titled: "Australian Wildlife - Roadkill". The front cover has a typical outback arid land scene all red dust and sparse scrub and a tastefully laid out dead red kangaroo. Whatever will they think of next? Kangaroo is quite a tasty meat from my experience, but it can't be cooked too long or the texture will be too tough because it is such a lean meat. To be honest I often wonder what happens to roadkill animals down here. I know the local wildlife rescue folk (who are all volunteers) check the pouches of the deceased animals for young. They then spray the body with an X mark to show that they have been checked. Then the local council picks up the bodies using a truck with a crane. What happens to the bodies then is anyone's guess, although I suspect that they end up in landfill. In a strange side story, I once saw along the freeway two cows that had clearly fallen off the back of a truck. And things were not good for them. There are considerable downsides for animals with our vehicles. I drive slowly so as not to get involved in any of that business, because no matter what my hurry is, the consequences will take longer.

Actually, it really is distressing that the organic farms are not saving their own seed, but rather importing them instead. That blew me away, because I try to save every form of seed here that I can, because it saves money and develops locally adapted plants. That was a story that I just didn't expect at all, but no doubt they do things that way because it is cheaper. I have heard reports that organic seed is very expensive. Interestingly too, I kept reading references in the Limits to Growth book about the Green Revolution. Now, that was all before my time so I am unaware of the details, but one thing that the authors of the book kept coming back to were developments in high yield grains. Given we were discussing gluten intolerance in people, I had have to suggest that high yield grains may be part of that story. The question then becomes, what went on before those days? I'm hoping that book you mentioned that is on its way here tells me more about that story. Dunno. Stay tuned! :-)!

When I lived in the inner city, there was a community garden at the end of the very street I lived in. I used to take my compost food scraps down there as they had a collection point. That was until I worked out how to do the worm farm properly in the backyard and grew vegies around that. But I had no idea about such things back then. The bloke that ran the place said to me one day that the politics used to drive him bonkers and there was a huge waiting list for garden plots too and I believe they had to institute rules to kick out people who paid their dues but failed to utilise their plots, which was an uncomfortable solution to a difficult problem. They were a good bunch of folks. Here's a link to a report on them: Rushall Community Garden on ABC 7.30. I recall when it was constructed.

You know when people want to put me in a box, I feed them 'hippy' because that seems to be a story they can get their heads around.

Thanks for the explanation about the farming out situation. I had an inkling of an insight once long ago that it wouldn't be a bad idea to know about how such things worked as it may be part of some sort of future bargain. Whilst it was only gut feelings and intuition, I reckon it pays to listen to such things.

cont... cont... cont...

Fernglade Farm said...

Ready Player One sounds interesting, although I can't believe the plot drags in a De Lorean and an Atari 2600... Occasionally I see someone around here driving a De Lorean. Hmm, at least the ending sounds OK. Sorry, no teasers, but I did read a synopsis of the story. Terminal looks like a lot of fun and Margot Robbie is a great actor. Ah, Slaughterhouse Rulez appears to be a story about the gates of hell opening at a toffy prep school. Should be fun! What could possibly go wrong?

Me off to bed early again!

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Stephen E,

Welcome to the discussion and a big thank you for guessing my profession! ;-)!

> I'm certain that Kat is not growing food to sell in order to pay her mortgage.

Absolutely, I understood that aspect of the story, and sometimes I am guilty of over-subtlety so I may not have been clear enough in the original blog story. Just to clarify matters, I'm trying to suggest that one has to clarify their own values in order to move forward. That involves accepting limitations, hard work, and difficulties. Kat clearly appears to have done so by her very actions. The problem as I see it is that... Well, let me tell you a little story:

When I was a kid, my mother was a single mother. My dad cleared out at a very young age. She worked full time. There were three kids in the household, and my mum managed to purchase a house whilst obtaining a no cost Uni degree on a part time basis. Plus we had three meals a day on the table etc. etc.

My point is this. Could a single mother nowadays achieve all of those goals? I'd have to suggest that the answer to that question is: No.

I speak with a whole lot of people - some of whom have undertaken a PDC with Mr Holmgren at Melliodora (no BS) - and they ask me how they reckon they can get some land of their own to start putting into practice some of the skills they learned on the PDC and also make some money from the land. Now I have not undertaken a PDC so I cannot speak for that course, or how such complex matters are discussed in the course, but I see no way that they can earn a living off the land whilst paying for and developing a property whilst property prices are so crazy. The financial side of that story makes no sense whatsoever. Perhaps I am a brutal pragmatist, but it is a story that I do not understand.

Now interestingly, I read in the Limits to Growth this week an observation that at some point in the future (remember it was written in 1975) that:

New food producing productive land may be brought on line in the future, but we may not be able to afford to do so because of such a low return on energy returned for the energy invested.

I believe that we have reached or even overshot that point. I would love to discuss this matter with you, as I believe that it is important?

> His contention is that Business-as-Usual will end soon, by collapse of the banking system or depletion of fossil fuels etc

I have a slightly different take on that matter. I tend to feel that any society that does not return its manures back into the agricultural soils for the next harvest, is living on borrowed time. This will be an ugly situation, no doubts about that, but I do not feel that it will finish business as usual. Decline is a long slow process, punctuated by many ugly incidents possibly even with high body counts. Look for example at the UK with its coal production peaking at the turn of the 20th century and losing the grip on its Empire - what did that involve: WWI; The Great Depression; and WWII. The body count was pretty high, but after all that, they're still in business, albeit slightly poorer for the experience.

> And since most of us live in suburbs we have to figure out a way of making suburbia functional in this future

New house block sizes are now too small for people to have a productive garden of any reasonable size. Have you visited a new housing estate recently? I have, and I don't see how such an outcome that you described is even remotely possible without dismantling houses to create growing space – and even then the soil will be massively compacted.

cont...

Fernglade Farm said...

Interestingly too, in historical periods of crisis, people tend to head to the cities. That is happening in Cape Town in South Africa, right now. In the initial stages of a crisis, very few people head to the bush. Although, towards the end of the Great Depression, the farm population in the US had increased by about a million people because those people realised that farm families could at least feed themselves. Do we have the soils and the skills these days to replicate such a feat in short order after so many years of chemical agriculture which is heavily dependent on fossil fuels? I'm not so sanguine about that, but I would appreciate your thoughts?

> David wanted to support the Oz printing industry instead of getting it printed overseas, which added to the cost.

Total 100% respect. I used to write for Earth Garden magazine, but the money for the writing dropped away over the years, although I totally respect their work.

> but was out of fashion when the Holmgrens moved there in the early 1980s

Haha! I know something of this story as the editor and I used to visit Daylesford regularly from the early 90's. There is truth to what you write. However, Hepburn Springs was always subdivided and reasonably rural - urban. Back in the day it was apparently where people who worked in Daylesford and the surrounding areas lived. It was fairly affordable.

Now, I am reminded of the story of the coastal township of Lorne and I have read anecdotal accounts that due to the cost of local real estate, the town apparently has troubles fielding a football and netball team, although there are jobs to be had. A lot of commuting goes on between there and Colac. How the heck does that work? Daylesford fortunately has more land, but didn't an artist recently sell a house there for something like $1.7m, or am I incorrect?

> One day YOUR place will find itself to be in a gentrified area with cafes

It is a possibility, although the topography and forest may put an end to that. I do note that Mr Holmgren's property is within walking distance of two pubs (Old Hepburn at one end near to break neck gorge, and the Savoia heading closer to Daylesford). And Hepburn Springs has long been a tourist spot, as the Palais Theatre is close by (which may not operate these days) as well as the Blue Bean cafe - which has been under several incarnations from memory (I can see a red star in my memory).

Thank you for the lovely conclusion and I have absolutely no beef at all with you. I'm just really struggling how to explain the economics of the situation to people who have serious desires and expectations along these lines and want to get dirt under their fingernails and perhaps experience a rural existence. It is a real predicament due to the economics and population pressures.

Cheers

Chris

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

How wonderful the setting for that Melbourne cafe sounds, even without the portabella and eggs. I'll bet they have some other good stuff!

Do Not Eat the jalapenos raw! You have to have been born in Mexico (or on the Mexican border, as my husband was) to do that.

How deep do you think the well was at the Swiss-Italian farm? I started a well here once. I made it to two feet and then I recalled some really urgent tasks that had to be done . . . I could have done better as a child, when we used to play "Dig To China" in the backyard. My mother was not impressed with that game.

I like these:

"loan sharks on an app" (in your comment to Inge)

"because no matter what my hurry is, the consequences will take longer" (com. to Lew)

The Rushall Community Garden video was a lot of fun. I thought that it was neat that it was next to the railway tracks. But a 3 year waiting list!

Have you tried the memory exercise that Mr. Greer suggested (you, with our currently (?) muzzy head)? I tried it with 4 movie/TV stars and it worked for me yesterday and is still working today, probably because there is little else in my head . . . I had Lou Costello with a loaf of bread, Lucille Ball with a bottle of orange juice, Desi Arnaz with a bunch of bananas, and Vivian Vance with a jar of peanut butter. I cheated and used three people out of one show . . .

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Margaret:

I am sure that your house will show well, but best of luck to you anyway!

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Inge - So, you weren't within shouting distance of Osborne, but within rowing distance. :-). I gather the Swiss Chalet is still there. Somewhat changed, but still there.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Odds and ends before I get to your missive (epistle? correspondence?). Cliff Mass is pretty excited. We're supposed to get a huge atmospheric river (aka pineapple express) coming in. But, most of it seems to be heading for California. But, on Saturday, an oceanic cyclone is forming off the coast and moving north. I hope it doesn't move inland. Any-who. Probably a weekend of wild weather.

On inflation, from an odd angle. One of the Inmates brought Boston Baked Beans to the potluck. And, as she is from Massachusetts, they were pretty authentic and good. But we got to talking about Boston brown bread. Baked in an old tin can, so, a cylinder. I got a craving. When I made my weekly run to Safeway, last night, I asked the night manager about it. She knew exactly what I was talking about, but hadn't seen it in years. So, Google. It still exists. Wally-World carries it ... for $36 a can. There are other places to buy it cheaper. But, plenty of recipes for doing it yourself. Hmmmm....

When I order eggs, I want "nothing moving." Over HARD. I think runny eggs are ghastly. But, that's just me. Different strokes for different folks. Old guys looking in mirrors. I do that as little as possible. Makes shaving a bit dicey.

Stephen's comment on "vast suburban tracts." Detroit is doing some wonderful things. So are other places, but Detroit has been at it longer. Whole city blocks returned to wilderness. And then, sometimes, became urban farms.

Back to the plot. Cont.


LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. Form, beauty, parentage. Hmmm. Pretty fluid. Price figures in, too. If it's something "fun" or makes me smile, and is cheap (say, under $5) I might pick it up. If it fits into some very flexible decorating scheme. And, is blue :-). I also keep in mind my eventual estate. Best stick to the "name" stuff, there. If something doesn't have a clear mark, I put a lot of little stickers on the bottom of things. Company. If the company is clearly marked, I might mention pattern name and approximate year of production.

Queen Victoria was served kangaroo, a time or two. With head, paws and tail on. She thought it "Quite tasty." One thing about the Victorians. They weren't too squeamish about presenting food so that you knew exactly what it's source was. Who can forget Stargazer Pie? :-). In this State, roadkill used to go to prisons or jails. Now, they've changed the laws, a bit, and if you hit a dear or elk, you can harvest it. But have to check in with the game warden. Offsets the coast of repairs, a bit.

I think you'll be happy with the grain book. Lots about the ins and outs of old grains. Landrace.

And, as they used to say, I think that "covers the waterfront." Oh, bingo, tonight. I started watching "Handmaid's Tale", last night. Pretty good. I couldn't help but think that there are probably old farts out there who think that's the way things OUGHT to be. Luckily, they don't have much power. Lew

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Pam,

The Block Arcade and adjacent laneways are quite beautiful architecture, and it is nice to occasionally sit there and enjoy a coffee and leisurely breakfast whilst watching the stream of people going about their various errands and responsibilities. The Victorian architecture is really quite human scaled, don't you reckon?

Thank you for the jalapenos advice and I was mildly afraid of them before, however now I'm moving into the truly frightened phase! Hey, we picked the cantaloupes and water melons today and they are so good. I took a few photos and saved most of the seed. Strangely enough there were more seed with the watermelon than the cantaloupe. Pumpkin, well, for so much plant, there is one fruit and the vine is still very much alive. I'm thinking next year, we may aim a bit lower and choose from a variety of squash which being smaller may ripen earlier. Have you grown any of those before?

Your mother clearly had some excellent discernment and judgement to stop that game - especially in the garden! ;-)! At a guess, I reckon it was perhaps ten or fifteen times deeper than the well that you began digging. I may have to get a book on the subject, and whilst the ground is stable here, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of getting squooshed so far underground. It would be an unpleasant experience.

Haha! Glad to keep you entertained and informed!

Do you want to know the strange thing about that community garden, well it is on the right side of the tracks! Whatever that means... They're really popular because people have extended their old Victorian homes so much on small plots of land that garden space was not given a second thought. I really do wonder about folks who claim that the suburbs could be retrofitted to provide more productive garden space, without a whole lot of demolition. Lewis mentioned Detroit, and I reckon he is onto something there, as that was the model I was thinking about that works well at looking backwards in order to move forwards...

My brain is mush, but I did read the exercise yesterday, but there is just all this mush floating around and nothing is clear for me... Four days now, this is no man flu, this is the real beast! I did some work around the place today, and that was good, but also not good. Fortunately I didn't electrocute myself accidentally with the arc-welder. I broke the trailer the day before, it is a long story which if I tell now, I'll have nothing to talk about on Monday night...

Good to hear that you used the 'I love Lucy' characters. I grew up watching repeats of that show. From memory it was quite fun! Nice work, and even cheating on the exercise you still did far better than I.

Cheers

Chris

margfh said...

Hi Chris,

My BIL lost a high paying job in N. Carolina where he lived and the only one he could find was in Arkansas. The plan was his family would move there but for reasons unknown to me it never happened. Then he lost the Arkansas job (Sam's Club downsizing a few years ago) and he finally got the lower paying one back near his home. Unfortunately I think the debt they had incurred means the lower paying job doesn't meet their payments thus the current situation.

One of the problems with trying to sell meat is all the safety/health regulations. We found out pretty quickly that trying to make some money selling larger quantities of meat just wasn't feasible. Now we sell the excess to friends and family only. I think that some of the regulations put in place are there to keep out the small producer though.

I'm sure you've read that health care here is a nightmare. Doug and I are on medicare now but we still need a supplemental and prescription plan. Our premiums are over $600/month but at least our costs are mostly covered now which wasn't the case when we had to buy our own insurance. However, drugs are still an issue. If you have high costs prescriptions you reach the "donut hole" pretty quickly. This is the case with Michael as he has three expensive psych drugs. He reaches the donut hole in April, then insurance pays very little until his out of pocket expense is around $4,000, then he's in the catastrophic category and most costs are covered. It's all very confusing and then to top it off your plan may decide not to cover your drug and you either have to switch plans or if possible find a replacement.

I try to avoid mirrors these days LOL.

Very cold but by Tuesday it looks like we'll be close to normal-at least for awhile.

No feedback on our showing yesterday yet. The realtor had a booklet made up for people who come to see the house/property. They did not take one yesterday so I don't take it as a good sign but the house is very clean. We have to leave and take the dogs with us so we brought lunch and the dogs to visit Doug's mother at the care center. The dogs were quite the hit and well behaved too.

Margaret

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Lewis,

Some have described the missive as a “wall of text” and I'm very chuffed to hear such compliments. Enough about me, because you have a "strong oceanic cyclone approaching the Northwest on Saturday". You know, we get cyclones down here, but usually further north and west than where I am, but they're not good. Batten down the hatches, get some food, have some drinking water ready to hand, charge the batteries, have a torch and radio to hand, and then just enjoy the ride! Sounds feral as to me. I keep saying to people that the storms are getting stormier. But do they listen? No... Exactly too. Hey, they do lose energy as they move across the land, but you probably already know that. We had one down here this year, that lingered over the ocean and it just kept picking up energy. Ouch! Strangely it grew to category five and then dissipated over the oceans.

The atmospheric river looks pretty intense too, and I hope that there are not too many mud slides over the dry countryside? Not a weekend to be asleep at the wheel. I recall someone saying in the aftermath of the 2009 bushfires that they were building a chicken shed with their kids that day, and had no idea of the danger lurking. Far out! Mind you they did survive when many others didn't.

Thanks for the reminder, we have to fix up the drainage here to accommodate bigger storms. I mean what else do you do other than adapt?

Just a quick note too about an article the editor told me about. It is all a good lesson about not disappearing on ones obligations: Romanian Court Insists Living Man is Legally 'Dead'. Ya Ya, ze dead are walking among uz!

Lewis, all I can say is that you were spoiled rotten with the Boston Baked Beans! I read the recipe and it sounds awesome. Yum! Boston brown bread is a more fiddly dish to make and I can see how food-flation has hit the price of the cans. You'd hope that it was a big can? I feel that ingredients are reasonably inexpensive, but the labour and energy required to cook it may be the problem. Have you ever tried pumpernickel bread?

Fair enough about the runny egg gear as it is not to everyone's taste and I do prefer things like scrambled eggs fully cooked through. We picked the cantaloupe and watermelons today and they were both excellent. I unfortunately left them on the dying vine for about two days too long and the Portuguese millipedes began chomping on some of the cantaloupes. That was a bit of a shame for me as they were very tasty, but the chickens enjoyed those. The watermelon skins are far harder so the pesky millipedes can't break through the skin. We saved seeds from both of those fruits and will plant them out again come spring.

Yes, the not looking in the mirror whilst shaving with a cut throat razer could present some difficulties! Frankly, I lack the competency for such a deft manoeuver.

cont...

Fernglade Farm said...

Yeah I was wondering whether the gentleman would return to continue the discussion as I feel that it is an important one and would like to flesh the details out a bit. I mean people ask me about it... Yup, thanks for the reminder, as Detroit was very much on my mind in that context. The way forward involves a fair bit of demolition, re-purposing of land, and recovery of materials, as far as I can see.

In my muddle headed state, I'd completely forgotten about the 'Blue' tone to your collection. A very cool choice, if I must say. Fair enough too, about the stickers and organisation. Hey some folks might have no clue as to what they are looking at. In such ways do priceless items sometimes go for a song. Hey, sometimes rare and exotic vehicles are found tucked into someone’s back farm shed and covered by a grotty old tarpaulin. I guess the internet makes identification a little bit easier?

Oh yum! I really like sardines, so stargazer pie would probably be OK with me. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to be consuming fluffy the chicken whilst she was eyeballing me - in a manner of rapprochement, I'd have to suggest - after being roasted in the oven for a few hours. Yeah, I'd probably be uncomfortable about that. For some reason I don't feel the same way about fish or crustaceans, both of which are very tasty. Despite the foggy haze of my flu... Ah, raw fish it was that you didn’t like, and not cooked fish. My brain hurts this evening...

That is a good idea about roadkill meat going to some good use. We are very wasteful down here, and despite what people may think, there are not that many animals bouncing around the forests and outback. If we had to hunt and eat meat, well we'd probably run out of animals in about two weeks. It is not good, but it reflects the state of the soils and the challenging climate. Things would have been better in the past, but a lot of our soils were consumed by sheep for wool and meat.

Excellent and I really appreciate the quiet recommendation about the grain book. Yes, I feel that it may be the right path. There are times that I feel that my margins for error with things relating to the future are very tight indeed. I had a day today where everything just happened sequentially, but with no free time at all in which to enjoy the many accomplishments. It was all very strange but simply worked out that way. I'm feeling it now, and promise to take it much easier tomorrow. Far out, I have seriously done something bad in a past life to have to work so hard...

Did you have fun at bingo, and what fetish did you take to distract the ladies with this time? :-)! Yeah, the editor loved that series and she has recommended to me to watch it too. So many things to do. Onto the Art of Memory - with a side serving of MSG!

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Margaret,

I reckon it is hard for guys to take a backward step in their career. There is the Peter Principle to consider for a start, and sometimes the higher echelon jobs are just so difficult to fill that sometimes unsuitable people can be thrown in at the deep end. But in this case your BIL has a different story and he eventually took a step backwards in income but not in the commensurate lifestyle. It is a hard act to continue on a smaller income, but many people have troubles giving up the outward trappings of wealth. Even now, they probably still have many options available to them before things get critical, but that depends very much upon the stories they have running in their heads? Dunno. Whenever I encounter such a story, I am unsure how to assist the people, and mostly they take peoples advice who tell them that the show must go on! My story for them on the other hand is all rather unappealing. What does your gut feel suggest as to the road that they may take?

Exactly too. Far out, down here, small batch abattoirs are a rare thing and sometimes they're even in the next state. I like your strategy - family and friends. I do the same thing here too with produce. It wins friends, but no cash! Not to stress though. I’m still in the process of working out what grows here that we like to eat and then how to go about growing it. That is not as easy as it sounds.

You used the plural when you wrote "premiums". Is that $600 each per month? Far out! Does it get more expensive as you age, or is that an upper limit? Down here a family will pay about $2,500 to about $4,000 for annual family private health insurance on top of the 2.5% of pre-tax income for the public health system, although I do not believe that covers medicines, but I could be wrong.

Hehe! Yeah, I hear you. A few months back, someone was telling me off about some rubbish which was not particularly worth getting vexed about, but because my voice is not deep, the lady said: "blah, blah, blah, that young man, blah, blah". And to be honest, I kind of felt far more warmly towards her, despite the ear bashing I endured over the telephone. :-)!

Good to read that your weather is turning to normal. The west coast looks set to get a serious dump of rain... And we're up for a heat wave early next week, but to see temperatures over 86'F at this time of year is very strange.

Go Leo and Salve, they would have been a hit. And very good to read that they were on their very best behaviour!

Cheers

Chris

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

We have grown butternut squash for years, it tastes much like pumpkin and is used in all the same ways, and will store in the basement for up to 11 months. The youngish seeds are pretty good roasted, too. It also fairly regularly volunteers and grows well. I think that there are quite a few similar type squashes. I have never gotten a pumpkin to mature here with the deficit of sun that we have. That's "butternut", not "buttercup". I think we started with this one; have saved seeds since.

http://www.territorialseed.com/product/Waltham_Butternut_Conventional_and_Organic_Squash_Seed

Well, my brain has been only the usual mush, which is not your case!

Pam

margfh said...

Hi Pam,

Thanks for the good wishes. As I said to Chris we've gotten no feedback yet so who knows.

Margaret

Stephen E said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the long reply! I didn’t just guess your profession – I’ve read your blog for a long time so I know a bit about you, it was just a little joke about the way you calculated the value of Kat’s home produce. I think I discovered your blog from a guest piece you wrote on another site about your experience with using solar power.

I agree with almost everything you say. The price of property in some areas has become totally ridiculous, and that has put a whole lot of other things out of balance. I am in Auckland NZ where the prices are just as crazy as in Melbourne and Sydney. Also I am sure that when David Holmgren was looking for a property he had plenty of options and was able to choose something ideal, not just some rubbish land that was all that was affordable.

How to make a living from a small permaculture property is indeed a problem. I have friends living off the land (cheap) in the Far North of NZ; it is a lovely spot but they need supplementary income and so work a series of short-term casual low-wage jobs, which for me would take a lot of gloss off the lifestyle.

Unlike you I have never met Mr Holmgren, but I wanted to stand up for him in this discussion because he seems a very thoughtful and sensible guy, and is one of very few who are bothering to think about the future of the suburbs where most of us live and how to make them work if everything goes pear-shaped.

I agree that a long slow economic decline is at least as likely as something sudden. The thing is that the modern economy is so extensive and interwoven that it has a mind of its own and will do whatever it will do – trying to push it in a particular direction (e.g. to a no-growth state) doesn’t have any lasting effect. So we can’t manage any kind of change, we just have to wait and see what happens.

Modern housing estates do indeed have tiny plots of land, hardly better than apartments, but the permaculture solution would be to tear down the fences between the houses and jointly utilise the combined open space!

Cheers,

Stephen

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Here's an interesting article about debt ... and, paying it off

www.refinery29.com/2018/03/194339/how-one-couple-paid-off-all-their-debt?bucketed=true

Of course, this couple was kind of lucky in that they both had well paying jobs and could also pick up "gigs" on the side. But what I found particularly interesting was how, as a couple, they hashed it all out between them. Got a different view on money, and moved forward, together. Another thought that crossed my mind was that if you didn't have debt, or, paid off your debt and they did their program for another 3 years, they'd have $162,000 to put toward land.

Of course, things were very different then, but it put me in mind of my folks. Once my brother and I were in school, my mother worked as a waitress, for about seven years. We had more money for a few "extras." And, my folks always paid cash for every car and house they bought.

It looks like most of the action as far as the oceanic cyclone goes will be out on the coast and north ... Seattle and BC. Over the weekend, we're supposed to get gusts here, in the mid 20s, mph. But, you never know. I found myself wondering if our Columbus Day Storm was perhaps an oceanic cyclone ... that moved inland. Cliff Mass put up another posting, today. Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. I've eaten pumpernickel bread. Quit nice. But then, I like all those good old heavy, dark "peasant" loaves. I want to talk to the Inmate who made the beans, about the bread. She doesn't make it, but probably has info on how it was done. The trick may be to find the right size can, that doesn't have a plastic layer on the inside. Or, info on how to get it out.

I was a little hazy on landrace crops, but think I've got it sorted out, in my head. Maybe. Landrace self hybridizes (with maybe a bit of an assist from the farmer) to meet local area conditions. Maybe even down to a specific farm. I think.

Well, bingo. There I was, all dressed up and nowhere to go. I got cleaned up and had my bingo cards and fetish in hand (three magic leprechauns) and there was no one in the community room. Turns out the schedule is not a case of every other week, but is second and fourth Thursday of whatever month. My face would have been red, except there was no one there to witness my silly screw up. So, I washed my winter coat and spent more time on dinner, instead.

Our library is replacing the roof, only 10 years after it was put on. Staff seems a bit cagey as to the reason. I did a bit of digging about on line and deep within a city council report from last fall (all 35 pages of it) was a reference to "design flaws" and "special report won't be done." I want names. I want heads to roll. But that's just me. Lew

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I am having a seriously difficult time trying to keep up this week. So many really interesting comments plus your responses. Has ill health given you more time to write these interesting, lengthy screeds?

I am in complete agreement with you on the subject of debt, it is of the devil. I am surprised that certain things such as mortgages, don't seem to be regarded as debt.

When I lived in Rye in East Sussex, a man found an old well in his garden. He put a ladder in and climbed down. The next day the walls of the well collapsed in. I would suggest that people are very careful with wells.

I find the subject of what to grow, very interesting. I am not sure that trying to grow what one likes is worth the effort. I have given up and have found ways of damn well liking what grows easily. Perhaps growing up with rationing has made this easier for me.

@ Lew

I visited Osborne House itself long long ago. It was awful, a dusty collection of old tat. I am reliably informed that this has all been dealt with and that it is now a great experience. The memories that I am left with are the ghastly little white replicas of Victoria's babies hands and feet (marble?). Also lots of paintings by Angelika Kaufmann (spelling?). These paintings were simply terrible in my opinion.

Inge

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Pam,

Thanks for the butternut squash recommendation. Did you know that down here we call those squahses, pumpkins? Oh! Storing for winter consumption is a really good idea, and those squashes have pretty tough skins.

I reckon the pumpkin will struggle here too. The skin still looks green, and that maybe a bad sign.

I feel better today, although my voice is a bit raspy now and I reckon I could belt out a good rendition of Joe Cocker's - With A Little Help From My Friends, but then my throat would surely pay a heavy price for that act of folly...

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Stephen E,

No worries, I have had plenty of free time on my hands this week due to being ill with the flu. Not the man flu mind you, but the full blown kick you down hard in the guts kind of flu. Yeah, so talking is not much good for me, but typing, yeah, I can do that! There have been vast walls of text here this week. ;-)!


Yeah, that would be permaculture news. I used to write a lot for them, but had no control over the comments, and they get a lot of well meaning trolls there which kills any ongoing dialogue and opportunities for me to learn from others and have everyone share their experiences. I stomp the absolute daylights out of such fools here. It makes for a more polite and civil discussion. You can try me if you'd like to see what sort of reaction you'll get? :-)! I enjoyed your joke!

Thanks, and I was trying to open a discussion on the topic and engage you with on those issues, because people in the real world outside of the internet ask me about these issues and I have no easy answers for them. Certainly I feel trouble is brewing on that front, not that many people tend to notice.

Yeah, I have heard similar accounts from our friends from over the ocean about NZ. It is not good and that is why I mentioned the social outcomes from the lovely coastal town of Lorne in that you can get a job, but good luck purchasing property there and even renting is expensive due to the influx of holiday makers.

Someone mentioned to me recently that David apparently paid only $50k for his 2.25 acres in an urban area of a small tourist town on the edge of the Victorian highlands. I can't confirm that number of course, as the number was given to me as pure gossip handed on from someone who attended a PDC there.

Exactly, that was my point to people here too. It is really hard to make a living off the land, without an off farm income. A lot of uncertainty travels along with 'short-term casual low-wage jobs' too. Mind you, I have no benefits and lost a weeks earnings this week due to sickness. The reason I suggest that people look at their values is because they really have to state their values and then limit their options if they want to give things a go. People are very reluctant to limit their options from what I've observed. We now have no choice to do otherwise, because that is the world we live in.

Fair enough. He is a thoughtful and sensible guy. Did you read the book? Did the book describe demolition and repurposing of land and property in the city or did he skate around those issues?

Pushing an economy in a certain direction is beyond any of our abilities, but I did grow up without mobile phones and I'm pretty sure that we can get there again. Would you miss your smart phone (I don't have one, my phone just makes calls and texts)? I reckon the future will unravel, and that is about all I know! :-)!

That is a good suggestion about tearing down fences between you and your neighbours. Do you know anywhere that currently does that practice? I read once long ago about four or five neighbours and it may have been in either North Melbourne or Parkville, that all owned a share in an in-ground pool. They managed it as a co-operative, which came with the house. That is expensive. On the other hand I've known folks who grouped together and purchased a block of land and constructed a little off grid shack. What happened is that they all had kids and lost interest in the shared property but the expenses never stopped. Whenever I see them, I always ask how things are going there as it is an interesting case study.

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Lewis,

Exactly. Thanks for the link to the article. One of my core messages is that the old story about: 'you can have it all'; is no longer appropriate to the circumstances. I mean, not to blow my own trumpet, but my old Dirt Rat Suzuki is a 2004 whilst the dirt mouse Suzuki is a 2008. They are really cheap to own and operate. And far out, you don't see me going on expensive overseas travel to exotic locations simply because it is hideously expensive. That is not a judgement on other people who do so, because that is none of my business to remark upon. The editor and I had to work out what our values were, and then live by them. Of course I'd like to travel to Europe or the US, but far out, if I did so, then I'd have to go and work far more to pay for it, and all the while the energy and resources that gets put into this place diminishes. We just can't have it all, and there is nothing at all wrong with that concept, but marketing gets into peoples heads so... I mean far out, nowadays people talk about a gap year as if it is some sort of right of passage, without realising that it was cooked up as a way to separate you from your future income. And banks happily provide credit for exactly that experience via high interest credit cards. Far out, my blood pressure has just gone up several notches! Calm down Chris, relax, breathe deeply...

Instead of heading overseas on a massive spend up holiday, today I installed the new water tank and constructed the final concrete step on the new staircase. My values are producing, and allowing for future expanded production, not consuming as so many people want to do.

No disrespect to people who do have different values either, because the world might be a very boring place if everyone thought like the editor and I.

Moving forward together has the fancy and very technical name: Goal Congruence. Which just means being on the same page as your partner. Mate, I'll tell you, a lot of people don't hash out their goals with their partners because they feel that it will end up in a fight, or upset the delicate balance which everyone has come to live with. It happens. I heard a radio show on that very topic in relation to money matters between couples and it was interesting what the people felt that they could and couldn't discuss. Plus attitudes to money is something that is very strange and everyone sees it differently from what I've experienced.

Yeah, that happened down here too way back in the day. Nobody went into debt to purchase a car, because the cash came out of savings, or people just lived with the old bomb that they had. Somehow cars have managed to be a product that has been given more life than what there actually is in the reality and some people feel status is inherent with the display of a particular car purchase. It happens and I can’t speak for them because I don’t feel that way. Most vehicles take you from A to B and they're all starting to look alike to my eyes due to wind efficiencies.

Oh! I'm getting all riled up, and my voice, due to the flu, sounds like Joe Cocker - very husky.

cont...

Fernglade Farm said...

I read that yesterday about the Greatest Atmospheric River on record. You know, I'd have to suggest that living in an area with breaking weather records does not make for a calm and relaxed few days... Good luck and stay safe.

The old Rye peasant loaves are pretty tasty items aren't they? A lot of cans come with plastic liners - which makes them harder to recycle too. I rarely purchase any cans nowadays. I'd imagine that there is an old style bread tin that is just perfect for the round loaves? Maybe, have you ever seen any in your travels? Down here they used to make round ginger nut loaves which were more of a cake really, but quite nice. Have you ever seen or tasted one of those? I noticed in the recipes that butter was used to grease the insides of the linings of the tins, but I have no idea how that would work with plastic lined tins? Dunno.

I'll have to read into that about the landrace crops because I had no idea what that term meant either, but as I mentioned to you before, you can do just that by saving as much seed as you can and then replanting them. Most of the time, they really do get better and hardier. Even fruit trees can be done that way, but it is on a longer time scale and involves adapting hardier root systems and then summer bud grafting so that you get the variety right. It is a complex subject, and anything to do with agriculture is mind bogglingly complex.

These things happen. What do you do? I once went to work an hour early because I hadn't realised that daylight savings time had finished, and oh boy, was I the laughing stock of the place or what. Fortunately in your case, nobody but the three magic leprechauns know about the error, and so in some books that may mean that the error did not indeed happen?

That is not good about the library roof. You know over the past decade or so, I've noticed that building standards down here have dropped considerably and the materials look very thin to my eyes and some of the spacings are now wider than was previously allowed for. But if someone signs off on the building, then... I deliberately over engineered this place because it would be nice if it withstood the test of time.

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Inge,

I'm not quite sure that I'd use the word 'screed', but I appreciate your forthrightness on the matter! :-)! Yeah, you guessed it though. I can't think or talk right this week due to the flu, but I can type because that involves slower thought processes for me which perfectly fits my limited skill set this week. I'm very tired of being ill, but on the other hand it does make me appreciate my usual robust good health.

Yeah, I tell ya, I've had people tell me that student loans are in fact not debt - and they weren't kidding around either. I feel that we receive very poor or more likely no instruction on basic financial matters. It really is quite an appalling situation.

Absolutely, I feel that such a structure should be braced as it is being constructed. No fear there on that score! That thought was the very first one that popped into my head when I saw the old well on Friday. Was the bloke in Rye in East Sussex down inside the well at the time of the collapse?

Exactly too. If plants are in the too-hard-basket to grow, then no matter how much I enjoy the thought of consuming them or their outputs, I simply move onto another plant and test that. But all the while, the diversity of edible plants that is produced here gets ever that little bit larger. Did I mention that I gave coffee shrubs three goes and they grew well through the summer, but the occasional snowfall took them out. Moving on...

Has it warmed up and dried out there yet?

Cheers

Chris

margfh said...

Hi Chris,

I don't know what path my BIL will take. Their situation is critical right now. They've asked my MIL for a substantial "advance" on their anticipated inheritance which has been done twice before. Doug and I thought his mom would just hand it over but much to our pleasant surprise that was not the case at all. I am her POA for property and oversee her finances so I am in the uncomfortable position of having to pry into my BIL's finances. She had many stipulations before she would consider his request which I had to present to him. To his credit he said they were reasonable and he is very contrite about the entire situation. I did point out to him that considering his mother's health condition it's unlikely that she'll outlive her money she may need this and he has nothing to back up this loan. The reason that she is so well off is primarily that her and my late FIL were very frugal all their lives. However, there also was some luck involved as well. There working careers were at a time of defined pensions, good and reasonable health insurance and the expectation that one could spend most, if not all, of their career with the same company as my FIL did. He was able to retire at 62 to pursue his interests which were not extravagant.

Yes, we have three premiums which total over $600/month. They are medicare premium, Medicare Part D (for drugs), and medicare supplemental to cover what medicare doesn't (typically medicare covers only 80%). They do increase as you get older.

We got a little feedback on the showing. People are just starting their search and looked at three houses that day and liked ours the best.

Like Pam, I grow Waltham butternut squash (save the seeds too). It's a great keeper but spaghetti squash keeps even better. Interesting that you call them pumpkins. What do you call what we call pumpkins - squash?

Margaret

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

Two good days and now there is a cold wind, but so far, no more rain.

The bloke would have been dead if he had been in the well when it collapsed. But he felt seriously sick when he saw what had happened the next day.

That green pumpkin of yours looks just like a Queensland Blue. If it is, it will remain green.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Inge - I saw some recent footage of Osbourne, and it looked like they'd pulled it together and smartened it up. On various baby body parts in marble scattered about: The Victorians had some (to us) rather odd ideas about decor. Sentimentality was pretty over the top. German academic paintings were pretty grim. We have a small museum in Seattle (The Frye) that was started by a German merchant couple early in the 20th century. They trotted all over Europe buying up paintings. Did they scoop up some nice Impressionist paintings? No. It was all German academic stuff. Ghastly. At least, with the trust they left behind, the museum has been able to buy some pretty nice (to me) American regional paintings. Lew

SLClaire said...

@ Lew - thanks for the link! They did the same things Mike and I did in order to pay off the (very small) mortgage on the house we had at the time (we began in the mid 1990s) and set aside enough money at interest so we could live off the interest until our pensions and Social Security came in. We made the same sorts of choices they made and are transparent with each other about all financial matters as they are. It works when you have a goal you really care about and are willing to do what it takes to achieve your goal.

@ Chris - what you are saying about limits and the necessity to choose what you really want and give up what you need to to get what you want is really important. We make the same point to people when we have a chance. But there seems to be too much noise out there telling them to consume for us to make our point understood.

Claire

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Well, half an hour ago, around 11am, National Weather Service said our airport was getting gusts in the mid-20s. It's not that far. I could probably see it if the trees weren't in the way. There was nothing much happening here. No wind to speak of, or rain. But now? Pouring down and the trees are beginning to whip around, a bit. So, here we go!

Ahhhh. "We call your squashes, pumpkins." That explains a bit of the confusion a few weeks ago. Between your pictures and Damo's questions about telling ripeness. I got a late start on pumpkins (the orange one's), last year. Once they set fruit, I cut the vine ends and pruned back a few leaves so the sun could get at them. Not that that was advised, anywhere. They were small, but had enough orange on them to finish ripening up in the window.

By the way, on the Kunstler blog a few people did respond to your comments, but further down. His blog doesn't seem to "thread" very well. LOL. I thought your comments quit sensible and just stripped away some of the fairy tales about alternative energy. Of course, some people find that hard to handle. But I understand. I can still remember when I got it through my head that solar (other than passive) really couldn't do much about heat, unless you perhaps had acres of panels. I know better, now, but I suppose the same applies to cars.

LOL. Don't stroke out on us, Chris. Eat some garlic, run to the bottom of the paddock and back, meditate and contemplate the chickens. Not that I don't give myself a good wind up, from time to time.

No, I've never run across round ginger nut bread. Or, old kitchen round tins. But then, they used tin cans. Didn't need fancy kitchen tat. I may check a couple of chef's catalogues I have, to see if they have cylinder baking tins. I bet they do. And, if not too dear ...

I once drove out to the coast to work in a branch and couldn't figure out where everyone was. Almost headed home, again. Then the light dawned ... Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. Money and debit and all that. It often seems to boil down to needs, wants and expectations. A bit of luck and opportunities. I also thought it was interesting the pressure they got from friends and wider society to "keep up with the Jones'"

I have the feeling that as to the library roof, between the city council meeting's "public may ask questions" and "no special report to be done" they were laughing their ... off, as they know so many people have their heads stuck up their I-whatever's that questions probably won't be raised. I occurred to me that all the old cranks with a bit of power, who could question that situation, have pretty much died off.

There was a story in "The Living" (Dillard) about some fellows who were digging a well and died of the gas fumes that collected. That's a very good book about the settling of Puget Sound, back in the 1850s. Fiction, but I bet that bit of story was based on an actual occurrence. A very good book, by the way. I often recommended it as a "good read" to anyone the least remotely interested in our regional history. Once I start working on the library, here at The Home, I'll make sure there's a copy on the shelf.

About plants too hard to deal with in whatever climate you live in. I asked the Master Gardener about attempting sweet potatoes. His take was: Can be done but not worth the effort. I've been told that growing any of the cabbage family, here at The Home, is pointless, due to cabbage moth. That, I might give a spin. No one seems to have splashed around much BT.

Well, off into the storm I go. Post office and library. Ah, a little clearing spell. Might not be so bad ... Lew

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Margaret,

That story has all of my internal alarm bells ringing at klaxon levels! The story has a bit of everything:
- Heavy indebtedness;
- Inability to service the current debt;
- Request for advance on an inheritance (that was a new story to me); and
- This latest request would be for a third advance.

I don't envy you your position in that story. My gut feeling isn't good, mostly because I've never seen a business recover from a position where it was unable to service its debts. Some have begun all over again to very good effect, but that usually involves a lot of pain.

Defined benefit pensions are a good thing if you can get one, which is rare outside of the public service down here. And the government lifted the retirement age to 70 for my generation. I'm frankly not sure how hard I'll be able to work at that age.

That sure is a lot to pay for health insurance - relative to down here. Mind you, it would be difficult living in the US without health insurance and then requiring medical assistance.

Good to hear about the house showing. Nobody buys houses down here in rural areas over winter. I'm not sure why either, they just don't. At a guess I reckon it may have something to do with being unable to visualise the property during the growing season, but that is only a guess.

Nope, we call pumpkins, pumpkins! :-)! The only thing that we call squashes are a small yellow watery thing about the size of a large mandarin. We definitely call the butternut squash by the name a butternut pumpkin. The first time I'd gleaned that there was a difference was in talking to people here. Interestingly, I discovered a small tree frog sitting on the pumpkin today. It was hiding under the shade of one of the large pumpkin leaves because it was quite hot today at about 86'F.

My mates gifted me three point of lay chickens today! A light Sussex, an Indian game, and something else of uncertain parentage. They're all good looking birds and have already found a nesting spot in the hen house, so they settled in really well. The boss chook gave them all 'what for' and they meekly submitted and then got on about their business which was a pleasant surprise.

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Inge,

Glad to hear that you have now had two warmer days and a cessation to the rain. Cold winds make it hard to start seedlings. Are you able to utilise your greenhouse? Such a structure would really come in handy in those conditions.

The editor and my mates attended the local chook auction today. I called in sick, because I am not fit for polite company, or crowds. My mates purchased a couple of partridges and they have a huge diversity of animals on their farm. And by all accounts they were very attractive birds.

Yeah, that was how I would have viewed the sad happenings in that well too. To see the walls collapsed inwards would be quite the shock for the bloke.

Thanks for the identification. Well, I never. I'd only seen that variety of pumpkin sold at the markets as a uniformly grey-blue colour which is quite unappetising but quite a tasty thick skinned pumpkin - excellent for roasting. However, looking at images on the internet, plenty of them are the same green colour as the pumpkin here. The vines still look as they have some life to them, so I'll leave the fruit out there for a bit longer just to see what happens. It is hard to believe that so much vine only produced the single fruit! But better luck next year is the watchword.

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Claire,

I hope that your garden is slowly warming up and waking up from its winter hibernation?

It is an important story isn't it? I reckon you've hit on an important core truth there too, because if your story is that you are a consumer, then of course having a story of no limits brings home the goodies. If you don't enough goodies, then you are clearly not consuming enough, so more consumption is better. However if you are in that same world and you want to produce or achieve something, you are faced with harsh realities which limit your options. It is a different mindset. Even facing those limits may be enough of a disincentive to keep people in the consumer mindset? Dunno.

My gut feeling tells me that eventually the consumer mindset will disappear of an inability to service that mode of thinking. i.e. the goodies are no longer provided. We are nothing if not an adaptive creature and will do OK in the long run.

PS: I was reading the current edition of 'Into the Ruins' over the past few days and I was amazed to see so many apple references popping up into the many stories. I wasn't entirely sure, but I felt that people were writing about the computer company, and that speaks volumes to me. At first I thought they were talking about the apples that come from trees…

Cheers

Chris

Fernglade Farm said...

Hi Lewis,

Mate, hold onto your hat! That sort of wind would surely blow it completely away. Has the storm died down somewhat and did it live up to the hype? I checked in at Cliff Mass blog and there have been no updates. I did notice the reference to the still damaged Oroville Dam and that sure is one dam I'd be uncomfortable living downstream of. The damage to the spillway and the Feather River was unbelievable in Feb 17.

I didn't see anything in our media about your weather so hopefully everything is OK there? Thought you might enjoy this story about a very quirky bookshop in Brisbane: Quirky tin shed bookshop 'born out of laziness' offers booklovers' sanctuary. Pretty cool, huh? As the guy says, in rural areas there are always honesty boxes for local farm produce and people are usually pretty good.

Interesting about your pumpkins ripening off the vine. Very interesting. Inge appears to have correctly identified the variety of pumpkin (Queensland Blue), but whilst I feel that I may try again next year, the smaller pumpkins, err sorry, butternut squashes may do much better here as it is not as hot as traditional pumpkin growing areas probably should be. Queensland is way hotter than down here in the chilly south eastern corner of the continent!

I get their disappointment too and you know, I should probably tell the story of how the heck we got to 30 PV panels, when I began full of beans with 8! At the purchase of every new panel, my confidence dropped, but my credibility dropped even further! We did get there in the end though, but it is a heck of a lot of energy for the system to handle and I have put fail safe points all the way through. It is certainly more than enough to weld very thick metals. I did read all of the replies, but there was a lack of ability for people wanting to engage on and flesh out a topic because I witnessed a lot of posturing and general social monkey business, but it is not my comment section to critique and it works for Mr Kunstler.

Haha! 'Ere he says he's not dead yet! I could barely speak this morning and so I had to bail on my mates who we'd planned to go to the local poultry auction. The editor went and everyone had a grand time. Apparently the TV show gardening Australia which has been running for years and years - and was at one time hosted by a local notable (speak quietly about such matters though) - was there filming. The editor said that the auction was quite busy. The editor took the book that you recommended on Simple French cooking as a present and my mates gave us three good looking point of lay chickens which have all settled in nicely. They breed chickens and so they have a goodly supply of birds. They all tried the jalapenos chilli too. Apparently the tail of the chilli was quite mild and then it got ever hotter the closer you got to the stalk. I was very impressed to hear that they managed to spread around 100 cubic metres (130 cubic yards) of compost or mulch recently. You know, even that much doesn't go as far as you'd think. I'll bet their soils retain more water and stay greener in future summers than the surrounding farms. It is the best use for fossil fuels that I know of.

cont...

Fernglade Farm said...

You know those old round baking tins had some sort of minor corrugation in them too and they disassembled in half as there was a top and bottom to the tin.

Hehe! Well we are both in good company then. Far out, did my work mates dish it up to me that day or what? It is hard to be a cool banana when you are the laughing stock. Nowadays I'm much more careful.

Yeah that keeping up with the Joneses is a bit like responding to a Siren call, don't you reckon? I'm not sure how much good it does, and the thing is: what do you win by taking part in that competition?

For sometime now I've wondered whether disengagement with the political process is also a reflection that people and households are working harder and longer just to keep up and honestly I don't know whether they have the spare energy to take an active interest in matters. Dunno. Mind you they are confused by the quaint notion that clicking on a button is any form of political activism. The people that do have the time, are benefiting from the present arrangements so it is not in their interests to lobby for any changes to that. I could be wrong in that thought...

Yah, carbon dioxide is heavy and so it settles, and a well is a good place for that to occur. Speaking of which the air outside smells of burnt vegetation from the four planned fires that are going right now. Good to read that you have plans for the library there! Cool!

Cabbage moth appears to ignore the perennial variety rocket (or wild variety) and that plant is an absolute giver although the leaves are a bit on the small side. But still, it is worth trying the Bt and see what happens. Summer greens are a tough ask here and most of the ones that people are used to eating come from that mustard family of plants.

Gotta bounce, although I wrote the story for tomorrow nights blog, last night, so tonight is all about finishing.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - I had an odd dream last night about struggling with some kind of technology and the first thing that popped into my head when I awoke was that there should be a fifth freedom (See Norman Rockwell, "Four Freedoms") ... the freedom from technology. Enshrine it in the Constitution. Make it an amendment. But, I suppose MicroApoAmaBook would put the cobosh on that. :-).

Weather was a rather nonevent, here. Oh, typical blustery and rain, but that was about it. Apparently, the storm weakened as it approached the coast and pretty much stayed out to sea. Only one river up north had minor flooding and no reports of any widespread power outage. I want my money back! :-). We had one gust here of 28mph, but most were less. Rainfall for 72 hours was 0.33. Day and night temps were pretty steady, right around 50F (10C). Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and around 60F. Good day to get out and do SOMETHING in the garden, though the ground will be soaking.

Concrats on the new members of the chicken collective. Nice they integrated so peacefully. As my friend Julia says, she stays out of chicken politics. Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. That was quit an article about the bookstore. I really like the name. I see the owner had another outlet where he keeps "the good stuff." I'd guess the open bookstore is partly the dross he picks up along with the high end stuff. he probably buys the books from estates, skims off the high priced spread to sell on the internet and disposes of the rest at his stand. I've run across a few of those honesty boxes, here. A DVD store at the flea market ... a Mennonite bake stand out in the country. As they keep going, I guess it works out.

I'm rather miffed at the library. They were closed, probably due to roof concerns. But the staff was working away, inside, and I gave them a good fist shaking. That and a buck will get me a coffee, down at the Club. Lew

PS: Nope. Have never run across a cylinder baker in my travels. But then, I wasn't looking. There are sure enough of them for sale on the internet.

Angus Wallace said...

Hi Chris,

Happy Easter, though we're not seeing much autumnal weather here -- 35C today! We've had about 5mm of rain so far this year, and are running on town water now. Makes you realise how long the long-tail of Australian weather can be.

I think your observation about the ROI of growing veggies in the backyard is interesting, but I have a few thoughts:
- don't forget the utility of living in the house. The veggies are more of an added bonus than the purpose of buying the house
- my house is stupidly overvalued, and I reckon its long-term value is about 1/2 its current market value (in Adelaide) -- I reckon this is even more pronounced in Melbourne. It makes it hard to assess the fundamentals when the market signals are so skewed
- there is also the added resilience-value of growing the veggies. Maybe it's like insurance?

Anyway, a great post, and some thought-fodder for sure :-)

Cheers, Angus