Monday, 22 August 2016


This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: Aug 22 - Moonbow.mp3

Hope you are all enjoying the podcast. You can either listen to the podcast directly using your Internet browser or you can simply download the file (using the Save Link As option) to listen to later. Enjoy! Let's get on with the blog...

The door to the outside world slid open and a gush of cold and damp air blew into the warm house. It was Saturday night during late winter and the rain was again running along the valley far below the farm. Wet winters are a nice time to be perched high up on the side of a mountain, because up here in hillbilly country, the soil is damp, but well drained. The valley at the base of the mountain range is a whole different story though, because many parts of that valley are beginning to resemble a swamp. Anyway, as the door to the outside world slid open, the editor poked her head inside and said: “You’re not going to believe this, and make sure you bring the camera!”

I have to admit that the outside weather conditions that night were very sub fluffy optimal and I was reluctant to head outdoors to see what possible antics the wombats were now up to in the orchard. On a not unrelated side story, a fierce wombat had been the feature of a news story only a few days ago because a lady in Canberra was mauled by a particularly ferocious wombat: 'I really thought I was going to lay there and die': Wombat mauls woman walking dogs in Canberra. Hmmm, those two rather large dogs in the photo in the article could probably benefit with a bit of Fernglade Farm fluffy canine / marsupial interaction training. And the first rule of fluffy when it comes to wombats is: Don’t annoy the wombats (edit – or do so from a respectable distance).

That night though, I was however completely unprepared for what I saw outside hovering over the valley in the darkness. And no, it wasn’t the mothership which was about to disgorge its payload of rampaging aliens who would obliterate all before them. And no, it also wasn’t one of the local marsupial creatures performing a particularly dexterous martial arts move – worthy of Bruce Lee himself – on one of the fruit trees in the orchard. No, it was none of those things, although they would make for a good story wouldn't they? Although the story would possibly be a bit truncated if it were indeed the marauding aliens. 

It was a moonbow!
A moonbow hung over the Barringo valley on Saturday night
This is serious! It really was a very rare sighting of a moonbow hanging over the Barringo valley. For those that aren’t technically inclined in all things weather related, a moonbow is simply a lunar rainbow, or a night time rainbow. A rainbow occurs when the sunlight during the day refracts light upon the droplets in rainfall. A moonbow on the other hand occurs when sun light reflected off the surface of the moon at night refracts light upon the droplets in rainfall. I never even believed such a thing existed, but apparently moonbows have been mentioned at least since Aristotle's Meteorology (circa 350 BC), so they are rare events, but at the same time, they’re old hat, but also way cool!

A closer photo shows the arc of the moonbow rising up out of the Barringo valley.
A closer photo shows the arc of the moonbow rising up out of the Barringo valley
Who knows why, but for some strange reason this week, my mind has drifted into the distant past and I have been contemplating the old 1970’s television show Kung Fu. That show had some great quotes and the Internet is quite useful in this regard as it provides a list of many of those quotes. In one episode Master Kan advised the much younger Caine (played by the now deceased actor David Carradine) that:  "To suppress a truth is to give it force beyond endurance." That is sage advice!

If I was to slip into the mindset of that particular 1970’s television show for just a short moment, I’d say something obscure such as: “The way of the fluffy is a temple, whilst the dark forces of product crapification are arrayed against one, but be like the sun, grasshopper, and what is within you will warm the earth.” I have to confess to you the reader, that the dark forces of product crapification are pretty strong as I have discovered to my detriment this week.

Product crapification refers to the increasingly shoddy products that we are sold. Every now and then I get stung by this dark and unrelenting force. Long term readers will recall that I have a nose for a bargain and am happy to follow my nose to where it may lead. And a few years ago I purchased a well priced leather couch. I like the leather couch, the editor likes the leather couch and the dogs like the leather couch. Its comfy. The problem is that, over the past year or so, that leather couch has started to crack, and chunks of leather have begun falling off the seats.
The leather couch has started to crack and chunks of leather are falling off it
I had never owned any leather furniture previously and was totally unaware that this cracking of the leather was even a remote possibility. I initially started to wonder whether I had actually purchased a vinyl (i.e. plastic) couch, but after some enquiries with re-upholsterers I discovered the awful truth. The leather coating on the couch is actually a manufactured leather made up from scraps of leather off-cuts which are glued to a synthetic backing and then cleverly joined so as to appear as if it were a single animal hide. Who knew that this manufacturing technique was even possible? Talk about product crapification, and you don’t need to be Einstein to know that the entire leather couch covering will eventually crack and fail. And I am now forced to consider the ethics of having this couch re-upholstered versus the economic realities of replacing it with another couch which is made from a proper leather hide.

To add insult to injury, I recently had a very good idea which was subject to product crapification. Long term readers will recall that the editor and I brew all of our own alcoholic beverages. We brew enough home brew to provide an equivalent of one glass each for four nights of every week. The interesting thing that we have learned from this home brew experience is that in order to age all of that home brew for a minimum of one year, we have to brew and store a phenomenal quantity of home brew. There really is a lot of home brew product either fermenting or ageing around the house.

The problem is that when visitors turn up at the house, they do not appreciate the sheer quantity of home brew that has to be fermented and stored to achieve that level of supply. And because people are people, their minds leap instantly to the wrong impression which they are only too happy to share with us. So recently I came up with the genius idea of storing all of the fermenting home brew product in a cupboard out of sight of the general populace. The problem simply disappears!

To that end, I managed to scrounge a very nice looking second hand solid timber cupboard which can be left open to let the heat in so as to speed along the fermentation process, but also closed when visitors arrive. It was a totally genius idea, except that once we began sanding the solid timber cupboard we discovered that product crapification had struck again and the side panels for some strange reason in that otherwise solid timber cupboard were made from a timber veneer. A timber veneer is a very thin layer of high quality timber glued to a more substantial inner layer of totally rubbish el-cheapo timber. The timber veneer had been carefully matched to all of the other solid timber components too, so that ruse was very hard to spot. I never would have thought to check for that in only the side panels and nothing else. At least if there are problems with sanding the sides of the unit, I will be able to replace the two sides with solid hardwood.
We have now begun sanding a second hand cupboard which will house the many demijohns of fermenting home brew out of the sight of visitors
It is very hard to tell what products are subject to product crapification and what aren’t. The majority of the electrical components that control the off grid solar power system are locally made. I recently acquired a new spare battery charge controller because one of the existing battery charge controllers was having a few very minor issues but which could be repaired. Upon connecting up the new spare battery charge controller, I discovered to my absolute and total horror that it was even more faulty than my existing battery charge controller. I couldn’t believe it!  However, the manufacturer of the battery charge controller is located in Melbourne, so I contacted them and dropped the spare controller off for repairs at their business. After two days and some minor repairs, they returned the spare controller to me and it now works as good as new (which it was meant to be anyway)!
The new spare battery charge controller (in the silver box with the digital readout and the code PL60) was installed after recent repairs into the off grid power system
In other solar power news, a lovely guest on Sunday undertook the work of re-wiring the second and much smaller shed solar powered off grid system which provides power for several garden lights and water pumps. The smaller off grid solar power system had been getting more complex over the years and rewiring was an act of anti-product crapification which may help to balance out the many unjust blows that I have been dealt with over the past week. The way of the fluffy is still strong!
A guest on Sunday rewired the much smaller solar power off grid system used for garden lights and water pumps
In between the many extended bouts of rain the editor and I have continued excavating the new terrace which will provide a place for the soon to be constructed and planted blackberry and strawberry enclosures.
Excavations continued this week on the new terrace which will provide a place for the soon to be constructed blackberry and strawberry enclosures
We have also continued taking out many of the very old tree stumps which are dotted all about the farm.
We have also continued taking out many of the very old tree stumps which are dotted all about the farm
The orchard has yet to bloom but the fruit trees are growing and it won’t be long until the orchard is a riot of leaves, colours and flowers:
The orchard has yet to bloom but the fruit trees are growing and it won’t be long until the orchard is a riot of colours and flowers
The daffodil flowers have continued to bloom this week and I have observed that the older the bulbs are, the earlier they will bloom.
The daffodil flowers have continued to bloom this week
But the daffodil flowers are not a moonbow are they?

The temperature outside now at about 8.15pm is 5.7’C (42.3’F). So far this year there has been 731.2mm (28.8 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 698.2mm (27.5 inches).

Monday, 15 August 2016


This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: Aug 15 - Sprinter.mp3

Hope you are all enjoying the podcast. You can either listen to the podcast directly using your Internet browser or you can simply download the file (using the Save Link As option) to listen to later. Enjoy! Let's get on with the blog...

This week the world has apparently gone mad for the Olympics, however this week’s blog title whilst appearing to be a nod to all things track and field, is actually a mash up of the words “Winter” and “Spring”. Down here at Fernglade Farm we’re in the in-between time where it is no longer Winter, but it is not quite Spring either. Thus the completely made up (portmanteau) name “Sprinter”!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been writing about limits, and as winter is coming to an end and another growing season begins here, for some inexplicable reason I began thinking about “Fluffy the Pomeranian” who was the previous boss dog here. So, I thought that I would introduce Fluffy the Pomeranian to you – the reader – and tell you something about her story. Say hello to Fluffy the Pomeranian.
Fluffy the Pomeranian who was the previous boss dog here
The start of the Fluffy story means going way, way back to the Lost Dogs Home in Melbourne.

Sadly for us, Denver, the Jack Russell terrier had just passed away. Denver had been so named because he was rescued from a country road in the middle of nowhere. On that country road, Denver had been so malnourished that he was eating carrion from the middle of the road. Unfortunately for him he was so weakened by his recent experiences that he was unwilling to give up on his carrion meal merely to avoid being hit by the occasional passing vehicle on that lonely country road. The editor took pity on Denver and brought him back to live with us. He was a good dog. A real gentleman and very relaxed.

At that time, the boss dog was a breed described as a Dorgi, which is a cross between a Corgi and a Dachshund. That boss dogs name was “the Fat” and whilst she was an excellent – if not mildly grumpy – boss dog, she had a few troubles with the concept of sharing food and we had to supervise food time for Denver otherwise his problems with malnutrition would definitely have continued. Don’t feel sorry for Denver though, as he lived for many more years in comfort before eventually passing away.

With Denver’s passing a canine vacancy was available to be filled in the household. The Fat was visibly distressed by his passing, but I suspect she also rather enjoyed the new found freedom with the possibility of no competition at all for the sharing of the food bowl.

So off to the Lost Dogs Home the editor and I went in order to find a replacement dog for Denver. We are not particularly fussy about dog breeds or even the age of a dog, but on this occasion, the editor chose a small white Maltese terrier and as we were in the process of making that choice, there was this rather strange looking dog bouncing up and down whilst standing on its back two legs pawing at the air in a begging sort of a motion. That dog happened to be Fluffy the Pomeranian. Let’s call her Fluffy from here on end. Fluffy was performing a trick simply to get attention. After a short but rather heated discussion between the editor and I, we (edit - it was fully a Chris decision) decided against good common sense, to take Fluffy home.

Little did I know at the time, but Fluffy did that trick all the time. Seriously, that dog pulled one over on us (edit - just Chris). The previous owners who had abandoned her at the Lost Dogs Home named her Princess Shu Shu or some such stupid name. That dog had no boundaries whatsoever and to this day, I have never experienced a more poorly behaved dog. Not only was she exceptionally good at barking all night long, she also considered that the insides of the house – anywhere at all – was for all intents and purposes, her own personal toilet. Cushions were destroyed in the work of but moments. Clothes which were drying on the washing horses were dragged off and attacked without any provocation.

I’ve since read that the Pomeranian dog breed is often highly intelligent, but exceptionally stubborn and wilful, and Fluffy encapsulated the very worst of the breed’s traits. No one seriously wants to deal with a stubborn and wilful dog. After two days of Fluffy’s many hijinks and escapades, I wanted to take her back to the Lost Dogs Home. She was a real bad egg that dog.

Unfortunately for me the editor knew more about dogs than I and she refused to take Fluffy back, despite the fact that Fluffy had pulled out her stitches from a very recent operation despite her having a collar around her neck to stop that very thing happening. That dog was made of such tough stuff that even though the stitches were gone, and who knows where, the wound was opened, she healed perfectly and without infection.

So over the next year or so, Fluffy, the Fat, the editor and I all played a game of cat and mouse to see who would break first. That experience has left me with a real appreciation for the skills of the horse breaker.

Then one day, whilst I was cooking in the kitchen, Fluffy entered the kitchen and gave me what can only be interpreted as stink eye, and then she proceeded to urinate in the kitchen in front of me just in case she thought I was too stupid to understand what stink eye meant.

It was rather unfortunate for Fluffy because she clearly had a full bladder on that day and so she dawdled overly long at her task of urinating on the kitchen floor. On that occasion I was quicker than her and I managed to grab her back legs as she rapidly attempted to decamp from the kitchen. Fluffy rapidly found herself upside down dangling by her back legs. And to my utter surprise Fluffy whimpered. It was the very first time that the dog had shown any remorse or concern for her appalling behaviour. (Edit - it might also also be worth mentioning the day that Fluffy vomited up cat poo next to the bath whilst I was taking a relaxing soak).

From that point onwards Fluffy came to the sensible decision that life would be easier if she observed a few basic rules such as not barking all night long and not using the insides of the house as a toilet. The boss dog at that time was the Fat and she took Fluffy under her wing and they became good mates.

As time went on, the Fat eventually grew old and died and I remarked to the editor that Fluffy wouldn’t care less about the Fats death. I was completely wrong because Fluffy lost most of the colour in her coat in the days following the Fats death.

Fluffy then took on the role of being boss dog as seriously as she had taken on the role of being a complete pain. Bad behaviour became a thing of the past and rules for the other dogs and cat were enforced with a strong iron canine paw. Toothy, the long haired dachshund who many readers are familiar with, replaced the Fat, and Fluffy immediately took that very young dog under her wing. Fluffy used her tongue to spend at least half an hour of every single day grooming Toothy, and he loved every minute of it and would do whatever Fluffy wanted.

But for me, Fluffy became a familiar. She shadowed me whenever she had the opportunity. We were good mates after our initial disagreements and understood each other and asked no more of each other than mere companionship. Everywhere I travelled she wanted to go.
Fluffy the Pomeranian enjoyed travels with me
Fluffy had no fear at all and would react to strange dogs by trying to bite their eyes or attack their throats until they acknowledged her as the alpha animal – which they always did despite any size or attitude differences. Strangers used to stop me in the street and ask to take photos of her, and she usually obliged them by posing for their cameras.

Whenever I was working on repairing a house, Fluffy used to sit nearby and keep me company and whenever I moved to a new location she would follow me and just sit contentedly. And she did so for many years.
Fluffy the Pomeranian was a constant work companion for many long years
Alas, all good things come to end. By the age of sixteen, Fluffy had developed a wasting disease and began having painful seizures which left her screaming. Right to her final day, which I spent with her, she was a pleasant and faithful companion. But by late afternoon of that final day, I accompanied her to the Veterinary clinic where she passed away in my arms.

I buried her deep underneath a lemon tree (the Fat is under another nearby fruit tree) and to this day the spirit of the Fluffy keeps on giving and she is not forgotten.

A lemon tree in full fruit
In farm news, earlier this week I undertook an upgrade of the wiring in the battery room that is the heart of the off grid solar power electrical system. That rewiring was more of an upgrade as I added new and larger feeder cables between the battery charge controllers and the batteries themselves. Larger sized cables reduce the amount of electrical friction in those cables so less electrical energy is lost to heat. I was immediately rewarded with the highest electrical reading from the solar panels that I have ever seen for the system.
After a recent upgrade to the off grid electrical system, I was rewarded with the highest reading that I had yet seen from the solar panels of 136 amps or about 4.8kW
There had long been a huge tree stump in the middle of the lower paddock. The stump must have sat in that spot unchanged for at least three decades. It must have been a massive tree in its time and I had previously tried to burn out the stump. After six consecutive and very large fires set over the tree stump, I’d given up on that idea because it is a massive waste of firewood and whilst the tree stump was getting smaller, it was nowhere near disappearing. After all of those fires, the tree stump was still peering out of the ground at me, although in a now blackened charcoal state. Over the weekend, I decided to test a petrol powered stump grinder on the tree stump and I was very impressed with the results.
A stump grinder was used to grub up a very large tree stump in the lower part of the paddock
The stump grinder works like a hammer mill as it has very strong steel teeth which mulch up the timber and that produces a sort of fine shredded mulch which will quickly turn into quality soil.
The stump grinder produces a beautiful shredded timber which will produce a lovely soil in time
The new garden terrace which is being excavated by hand, doubled in size over the past few days. We have also added a layer of composted woody mulch over the excavated clay in order to hold the soil together in case a big rain fall event occurs.
The new excavated terrace has doubled in size and the volcanic clay surface has been covered over with a layer of woody composted mulch just in case there is a heavy rain
Oh, bone wars has continued amongst our canine collective and Scritchy the boss dog has thrown down the challenge to all contenders! Scritchy strikes back!
Scritchy the boss dog has struck back in the latest instalment of the ongoing bone wars
The daffodils have produced their first blooms this week and there are now brightly coloured spots of yellow in the still deciduous orchard.
The first of the many daffodil blooms has opened this week
The hellebores are the late winter show off flowers and I spotted this dense collection of show offs this week.
The hellebores are showing off their late winter flowers this week
The mutant and very large celery plant – which I have had no hand at all in gardening because it was a volunteer plant – is producing very strongly still. I will definitely collect seeds from that mutant plant.
A freebie celery plant is providing many stems and leaves for cooking
The older asparagus crowns are starting to producing spears this week.
The older asparagus crowns are starting to produce spears this week
We planted the broad bean seeds very late this year, by about two months, mind you so it is nice to see them sprouting this week.
The broad beans, although planted very late, are sprouting this week
The salad greens are going from strength to strength and we have more of them than we can possibly eat. Fortunately for us, I caught a wallaby consuming them last night and shood it away before it could eat too much. Unfortunately though there are now less of them!
The salad greens are going from strength to strength this week

Vale, little boss Fluffy.

The temperature outside now at about 8.30pm is 6.5’C (43.7’F). So far this year there has been 698.2mm (27.5 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 682.4mm (26.7 inches).

The batteries are now 100% full at some point during each and every day!