Monday, 11 May 2015

Beeing ahead of the Game


A trip to the nearest town this week ended in a bit of a disaster. The little white Suzuki, the bright yellow trailer and I all headed into the little smoke of Sunbury to pick up a water storage tank for the new wood shed.  It was very exciting as more water storage makes it easier for me to keep the garden and orchard being productive through the next hot summer.

At the suppliers store, we loaded the water tank (which was a special order) onto the bright yellow trailer and then both the guy from the store and I looked at the bottom of the tank as it had a very unusual looking bulge and crease. That’s not good, I remarked and off we went to get the store manager. It was decided that the water tank had to be returned to the manufacturer and a new one supplied. Polyethylene (plastic) water tanks are almost impossible to repair – believe me, I’ve tried. Nothing seems to stick to food grade polyethylene and it is not an exaggeration to suggest that it is one of the slipperiest materials on the planet!

So, I left the supplier empty handed. It was not a wasted trip though, as I had a number of other supplies to pick up in the little smoke. One of those supplies was a couple of extra demijohns from the home brew supplier. Demijohns are beautifully made large glass bottles used for fermenting alcohol. I purchase 5 litre (1.32 gallon) demijohns as they are quite light weight – when full – and if for some reason they break you only end up with a small quantity of liquid mess on the floor. Demijohns come in much larger sizes. One of my mates uses a 50 litre (13.2 gallons) demijohn and that thing is a huge monster and takes up the entire corner of a room!

Anyway, the reason that I mention the purchase of the demijohns is that I’ve been noticing articles in the newspapers recently which are stating that mead, which is an alcoholic drink made from honey and water with added spices, is now making a come-back due to the popularity of stories such as George R. R. Martin’s - Game of Thrones series (I’ve read the books). As an interesting side note the present tradition of the honeymoon arose (note the use of the word honey) from a Viking custom related to the drinking of mead for a month after marriage (please let’s keep this family friendly, people!)

I keep a few hives of bees here for pollination of the fruit trees, but also for their honey. And, I’ve been making mead for a few years now but have recently decided that because of the difficulties surrounding keeping bees and the cost of honey, mead has now been relegated to last year status! I still make mead, but I’ve been experimenting with other country wines based on whatever fruits are producing in quantity here. This week I started an Australian Round Lime wine to see what it will taste like. Thus the need for the extra demijohns (just in case it doesn’t work out)!

Juicing the Australian Round Limes to produce a new and (hopefully) interesting country wine
One of the top order predators here at the farm is the wedge tail eagle. The wedge tail eagles are often performing lazy circles in the skies above the farm and one evening last week when I was in the orchard supervising the chickens who were enjoying a bit of time eating all of the various bugs and greens, the chickens all became quite agitated and started making this strange burr, burr, sort of noise. That is the chickens speak to let them all know that there is a predator around and that they should become alert. The ladies stopped in their tracks and looked around before running back to the shelter of their secure hen house.

The funny thing about wedge tail eagles is that for such a massive predatory bird, they make a sort of cheep, cheep, cheep, sound which doesn’t quite fit their aggressive image. I’d have to suggest that they are very confident of their place in the pecking order!

A wedge tail eagle soars lazily above the farm
A big storm from the Southern Ocean has been pounding the farm this week with rain and wind so there has been a great urgency to get the roof installed onto the new firewood shed.

One day earlier in the week, despite getting increasingly wet and cold as the day progressed I managed to install half the steel roof sheets onto the new firewood shed.

Half of the steel roof sheets were installed onto the new firewood shed
The new firewood shed is quite unusual because I also installed an internal lining of steel sheeting. The internal lining was installed to eliminate the damage to the external steel cladding due to firewood pressing against it from the inside and either rusting it from the inside out or simply that the sheer weight of the stuff may have pushed the external cladding outwards. That would be a bad situation for a firewood shed because rainfall could then enter the shed and the firewood would not only be wet, but rodents could enter the shed, the shed structure itself would start to be damaged and the firewood would most likely start to rot.

The internal steel lining of the new firewood shed is made using recycled garage metal sheeting. That sheeting is the stuff that is supplied nowadays with flat pack garden sheds. Observant readers will note just how easy it was for me to bend the internal lining steel around the corners of the new firewood shed and also just how many dents that came with those recycled sheets. It is not impossible, but it is very difficult to bend or damage the old school galvanised iron sheets used on the external cladding.

Installing the internal steel lining for the firewood shed
Fortunately a day arrived when there was no rainfall, so I commenced installing the other half of the roof sheets.

Scritchy and Sir Scruffy supervise the installation of the remaining roof sheets
Once the remaining roof sheets were all installed, I then had to race the rapidly approaching dusk as well as the advancing rain and install the steel ridge capping which is used to stop rain falling into the very centre of the new firewood shed.

Installing the ridge capping and cleverly avoiding the super atomic wedgie
For those that are concerned, in such situations, I employ a very thick sponge to sit on so as to avoid the self-imposed super atomic wedgie. Ouch!

I haven’t quite finished the gable ends (the high up side wall bits) of the new firewood shed because the rain moved in, however I did bring three loads of seasoned firewood up on the bright yellow (7x5 foot) trailer and have split and stored them in the shed for drying. Dry firewood is like having surplus money in the bank – but better!

3 trailer loads of seasoned firewood were brought up the hill and split and stored in the new firewood shed
Needless to say, the ground is now so wet that I am unable to use the little white Suzuki and the bright yellow trailer to bring anymore firewood up the hill and will fill the new firewood shed from other easier to obtain sources. Just for people’s interests, I reckon the new shed will store at least 12 trailer loads of firewood – which is hopefully more than enough to get through an entire year.

The new firewood shed is looking good with its friends
How did the house get here?

Whilst I was building the house here way back in 2010, I rented in a nearby housing estate. The rental house was mostly inoffensive – although painted purple and completely uninsulated - actually in hindsight it probably was offensive. When I moved in to the rental property, it had large sections of bare patches of hard baked clay in the lawn.

Me, being me, let the dogs do their business all over the place because the local birds used to sit on the fence and watch the dogs do whatever dogs do. Then when the dogs were elsewhere, the birds would dive onto their business, scratch it up and do their own business and the cycle of life began on those bare patches of clay. Then after a while with all of that fertilising going on from the dogs and birds, the grass started growing in certain patches quite prolifically.

I then had to mow. The prolifically growing grass was caught in the mowers catcher. I’d then dump the mowers catcher over the areas where nothing was growing and eventually the whole area was a nice and even lush patch of grass.

It was all very innocent and well intentioned. The worms, grass, dogs and birds were all happy, until one day I received a letter from the landlord demanding that I mow the grass more regularly or they would charge me to have it performed. The landlord had also decided to increase the monthly rental and put the house “on the market” and demanded that we make the house available for open for inspections every single weekend.

So I decided instead to move into our unfinished house with no lights. It was a bit rough at first, but the house slowly came together over a few months.

But before the house was finished there was still plenty of work to do. The internal fire walls, insulation and plastering had to be done. It was nowhere near finished when I moved in.

The insulation, plastering and firewalls were still being installed on the house
Storage was a huge problem as there was none, so I installed the floor to ceiling bookshelves in the hallway (hope you like them, Lewis and Inge!)

The floor to ceiling bookshelves were installed to provide some storage in the house
A temporary kitchen was installed so that I could cook and then wash up the various pots, pans and dishes. The candles were for light at night – it was very ambient and quite pleasant!

Temporary kitchen in the unfinished house
The plumbers setup the bathroom too so that at least I could go to the toilet, wash my hands and have a warm bath. It was very considerate of them! Unfortunately one night, it was so dark that I walked through the timber wall frame on an unplastered wall on my way to the bathroom and smacked my face into one of the timber studs. Ouch! I installed a night light in the bathroom and avoided that particular problem again.
Toilet, hand wash basin and bath were installed into the unfinished house
To be continued…

The temperature outside here at about 8.30pm is 9.2 degrees Celsius (48.6’F). So far this year there has been 274.6mm (10.8 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total of 226.4mm (8.9 inches).

39 comments:

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

No worries and fair enough. A slow and limited connection is actually pretty good for text (and the bank balance). ;-)!

Interesting. Most of the species of rhubarb here are locally selected varieties and they just don't go dormant like yours. I think I may have spotted some self-seeded rhubarb plants too.

Ahh, freshly baked bread is a beautiful smell - nice work. I've never baked with wholemeal flour and don't really knead the dough much at all (pasta dura flour). Dunno, about that at all, still I can understand how it could be very hard to do if you had to knead the dough a lot. Pasta is like that and has to be kneaded for about 15 minutes....

Yeah, incomers can have no idea and it all depends on whether they can be bothered meeting the neighbours. Sometimes people take their city attitudes to the country and it doesn't work well at all. In the city people spend their lives trying to be invisible. In the country everyone knows your business!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, the whole mess can be very complex and vary from state to state. However, the one things we can all be sure of is death and taxes. They've spent a considerable amount of time and effort harmonising the laws between the various states in the past couple of decades here.

That is very clever. You have to play the system and if discounts are being offered then I'd take them too. It is like all of the noise over at the ADR about water storage - why don't people call their water storage a frog pond - or some such thing? Honestly, fear 10 out of 10, imagination 1 out of 10. Nice to see that you are in a state that allows rainwater harvesting too. Your water supply would give me nightmares with its temporary black-outs, although I am perhaps somewhat nervous about such things...

Thought so. Oh jury duty, what a nightmare. Being self-employed I dodged it. Did you know they offered me $20 per day for each day of jury duty in compensation for my lost income. That wouldn't have covered the costs of the train trip in and out of the city...

Nice. Climbing roses are great plants. Sometimes they grow at a furious rate and can put on new stems and grow at a rate of a foot per day. They're close to triffids though, don't turn your back on them and keep Beau close just in case. :-)!

That is a good question. It is really hard to know what goes on now, let alone the future. Farms can be very messy if farmers don't attend to a proper succession plan which everyone understands and works towards. Honestly, marriages and funerals tend to bring out the best and worst in people.

Speaking of which, I watched the film About Time and must say that I enjoyed the Playwright character. He was a cheeky rogue. My favourite line was him at a first birthday party when someone mentioned that it was unusual to see him there he retorted: They lied to me when they promised there'd be booze at the party. Hmmm, I'll file that one away for future use. Kids birthday parties are nice for the parents and all, but I find them to be very unpleasant experiences and feel like a fish out of water.

That is a pretty good price for the phone and glad to hear that it works. No worries, when you get to figuring it out is all good with me. I didn't know that you had a languishing blog? Ahh, I'll check it out - just found the link. A very good name for the blog too named after a very useful God! Nice work.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - The woodshed is a zinger! And, visually it integrates nicely with your other buildings. Yeah, I've been in some of those "camping out while constructing" situations. In some ways, it's really nice. No commuting time. And, having all one's tools in one spot .. not back and forth due to tools you need in one spot, when you are at the other. Now we need a shot of you're bookcases, at present. I salvaged out 6 good sized bookcases when I closed my store. Crappy particle board covered with photo grain paper. But, at first glance, they look pretty good. Adjustable shelves and some have doored storage at the bottom.

A young bald eagle flew right over my place, the other day. My chooks have pretty good cover in their yard. The fennel is well up, they have a little open sided, low roofed shelter they can take cover in. A bit of blackberry that they can scoot under. Broody Hen has finally rejoined the flock. Was roosting with the rest of the hens, last night.

Saw an article on Cliff Mass the weather guy's blog. The snow pack in the Cascades is 20% of normal. In the Olympics, 1%. The mountains in NE Washington State are at 50%. The Columbia will probably be all right as the water comes from up in Canada and it's higher and colder. A better snowpack. He also mentioned that the reservoirs in the State, electric or drinking water, have been topped up, the earliest in the year, ever. They decided to gamble that there wouldn't be any flooding events. Yakima will have enough water this year to grow apples.

Well, I was very naughty back in the day when I had insurance and a doctor. He wrote me out a letter saying I couldn't serve, hinting at a kind of icky condition that wouldn't be inquired into, too closely. I very carefully keep it in a file, copy it and send it in, whenever I'm called up. They finally have stopped sending me the notices. I think, here, they pay something like $10 a day.

Oh, I keep on top of those roses. I noticed the frost nipped them a bit, last year.

Ceres had 12 little helpers that related to different agricultural tasks. God-lets, I guess. I've looked around the Net, but have found no images of them. Nothing published. I'm sure most temples to Ceres probably had plaques of them, or, maybe even small alters to each one. Lew

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

Oh yes, they are fabulous book shelves! My mother once commented that the fact that my father had floor to ceiling bookshelves throughout the house meant that one didn't need to decorate.

I absolutely agree with your comments on water storage (ADR). As I mentioned before, many of the comments on that blog are utterly pathetic.

I looked up the council tax here. We have 8 bands, based on the value of ones property. The property valuations are long out of date. Depending on band one pays (on average) from £845 to £2,536 per annum. A quarter off if there is only one adult in the property. I am on the lowest band and have the quarter off.

We pay VAT (value added tax) on most bills and most other goods. I can't imagine what 'value added' means. Like Lewis, I don't have to return a tax form Unlike him, I don't.

The son of a neighbour has just been to disconnect part of my electricity cabling in preparation for the cutting down of my dangerous oak. He refused any payment for the job. Again this is part of rural living. Unfortunately the tree will cost.

Another neighbour has just received eviction notices for the people in his 6 caravans. The planners have objected because the caravans are only meant to be used by holidaymakers and he had them used residentially. The people in 5 of them will all need rehousing, goodness knows where. Do you have a distinction between residential and holiday use in Australia?

I find that incomers often embrace the neighbours enthusiastically. Too enthusiastically I think as it so often goes wrong later. Perhaps one should take it slowly and learn the local mores.

Inge

Damo said...

I love mead! Recently I have been thinking mead might be a good 'value-added' proposition for honey. The best price you can get for a kilo of honey might be $20 (assuming pretty labels, selling at a market with cashed up city folk etc etc), but a kilo of honey left in a demijohn for 18 months could easily sell for $100+ ($20 per 750mL bottle).

Your rental experience is no surprise - I have found all rentals are basically shit. Not really surprising when most houses are also shit. I think the house I just moved into is the first one that was insulated...

What do you think of Telsa's powerwalls? A few people have asked my opinion on them recently (I don't really know anything though) and so far all I have said is they are a mass produced repackaging of existing technology. Useful, but not likely to a game changer in any significant sense.

Cheers,
Damo

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Many thanks for recognising the overall integration of the out buildings. Much thought went into that particular arrangement and it was very perceptive of you to understand that.

Yes, the camping out whilst constructing and living on site really brings a person closer to the project. Plus it gives an incentive to finish the thing too. ;-)! Many years ago, I spent six months living out of the back of a small hatchback and headed off into the wild blue yonder to see what could be seen on this continent. A tent can be a very comfortable existence in such circumstances.

During the first couple of weeks of that trip, I camped out in the tent at a caravan park in Hobart. The tent was right on the shoreline. I believe that it is now the site of the famous MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and because no one else was camping in tents, I had the entire foreshore to myself. And I took the advantage of that and slept solidly to the sound of the lapping waves for up to 11 hours a night. Hobart is a beautiful city with a fascinating history on the very large island to the south of the continent.

Nice to hear of your salvage work! Doored storage is handy because it keeps the dust off the books... Was it glass doors? They look really cool on very old book shelves with ornate timber work, holding old leather and cotton bound volumes which no one really reads - but having the entire collection looks cool. A couple that were both lawyers sold their house which was north of this mountain range and they had matching his and hers libraries. The devil went down to Kerrie (that was the location) and he knew he'd been beat... something, something about a golden fiddle.

I thought that bald eagles were an east coast thing? Do you often see them? Do they screech or are they silent? Nice to hear that your chickens are safe with cover to hide. I'll bet they know when the eagles are out and about.

Honestly, I don't know what to say, other than - save yourselves, the ship is sinking! Good to hear that the apple trees will be OK. They can adapt too, if slowly introduced to the concept of no water. I believe that I have now been told too and will keep my trap firmly shut in future on that matter. I deal with the occasional drought and heat like you wouldn't believe or ever want to experience...

Good for you. I pulled a similar card and eventually they went away too. $10 per day won't even buy a quality pizza... It was a mildly weird experience to be faced with that reality.

Yeah, the occasional frost knocks them back here too. The ends turn a black colour, but roses are amongst the hardiest plants around and they always bounce back!

That is too weird. Did you know that there is a town here named CERES and also - this is the really weird bit - I'm actually visiting the CERES environmental park in Brunswick tomorrow morning to pick up my bulk supply of organic rolled oats. The moons of Jupiter have aligned... Woooo! hehe!

Cheers

Chris







Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Both your mother and father clearly had impeccable taste! The sheer quantity of books stored in the hallway is very comforting and there is always a title I'm very familiar with and may re-read from time to time. Favourite books are like catching up with old friends and I read them more slowly every time and savour every word from the author.

Thanks. It is difficult for me to understand that people might not want to spend their energies saving themselves, but as JMG has clearly stated I clearly do not understand the cultural and historical issues surrounding water in the Western states of the US so should not get involved.

Nice to hear that there is some justice in your council tax there. The auditor general here revalues the land for assessment purposes quite regularly. Fortunately, the rate value appears to be somewhat less than the market value (which is mildly insane) so there is some reality to the system. House prices here can only be understood through the lens that views the whole mess as a giant speculative bubble...

They call VAT a GST (Goods and Services Tax) here. I wonder if your VAT can be understood through the whole value added process for fresh food that is excluded from the GST tax. Take a chicken. If the chicken is sold then there is no GST. If chicken butchered and then sold as uncooked chicken pieces there is no GST. However, if someone were to roast those chicken pieces (or indeed the whole bird) then value has been added to the end product and the sale attracts a 10% GST.

Was it the recent heavy wind which made you decide to cut the very large old dead oak tree down? Years ago, I had a very old termite riddled eucalyptus tree over hanging the house and I removed it because it used to drop chunks onto the roof of the house during heavy winds. Those trees are big enough to squash houses and whilst I respect the forest and all of the trees and life within it, I'm also realistic enough to know that occasionally the trees fall over without warning.

Yes, trees are very expensive to remove. Certainly such activities are near the upper end of what I can afford!

It is great to hear that your neighbours help you out. I try to assist my neighbours too, but they can be a very independently minded lot. Time will sort that though. They have a respect for all of the things that go on here and from time to time I encourage them in to have a look around at what is possible.

So sorry to hear about that. It makes you wonder if the people in the caravans caused trouble for someone else in the area. Generally the council here does not act unless there are complaints.

No there is no such distinction here. You could buy a large block of land and install a portable building and I do not believe that you could be evicted easily. Of course, you wouldn't want to do that in a housing estate. The mobile building in such a situation would probably be destroyed by neighbours looking to protect their property values...

Exactly. My mother always said to me to avoid the people that come up to you at first - and she should know being the sociopath that she was! On a serious note, it takes a long, long time to establish yourself in a rural area. Often it can take more than one generation. I generally mind my own business and am deferential to most people as long as they don't cross me.

Is it the same situation in your area?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

Top thinking! 1kg of honey is used to produce 5 litres of mead (i.e. 7 wine bottles at 700ml each). 1kg = about $7 to $8 depending on the source in the central highlands of Victoria. If you're in the area, there is a guy at the Wesley Hill market in Castlemaine who can supply buckets of between 1kg and 3kg of honey and it is top notch stuff. The champagne yeast that I use costs very little and the rest is water and perhaps some nutmeg or cloves to taste.

10 months is pretty good, but 18 months is the bomb! Oh yeah, it is smooth.

Nice to hear that they put insulation into that house. It doesn't happen as often as you'd believe! Yes, your experience matches mine too as the Australian rental experience has this problem with landlords confusing the house as not a place for tennants to live, but as an investment.

I have no experience with the Tesla house batteries as they operate at very high voltages and are lithium batteries. A lot of the off grid people using the lithium batteries swear by them - and they've had experience with the old school lead acid types I use here. Who am I to argue. However, the batteries aren't being sold with an off grid inverter and I've been wondering how that will work out? Also you may have to parallel install a few of them because I was reading of storages of only 3kWh for the basic unit which isn't very much energy given a basic fan heater will draw 2.4kW. It may keep the lights on and the refrigerator working during a black out and that is a good thing - you just might not be able to switch on too much more stuff.

Still, if it gives people some resilience then go hard.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Well, you'e maybe seen it in the news, but it looks like it's official. El Nino is back. BBC also had an article.

http://news.yahoo.com/el-nino-weather-system-begins-tropical-pacific-australia-053103198.html

Looks like a repeat of 2010.

No, the bookcases have "solid" lower doors. There's quit a sizable open arch between my living room and kitchen. I placed two back to back in the arch. Separates the areas, a bit.

I had to look it up, but after a major decline in range, in the 1950s, bald eagles are now found in every state and Canadian province. They make a very high pitched "E! E! E!" sound. They're so high up, it doesn't sound very loud. The ones around here seem shy of buildings and yards. Plenty of good hunting in the fields, around.

A couple of things I forgot to mention about my trip to Radio Shack. I got there first thing Saturday morning and there was just one guy running the place. Then, another showed up. Both had that "we did an inventory last night", glassy look. A look I well recognize. :-). We swopped "tales from retail" as he kicked my phone into life.

I also took a quick look around the store as I wanted to see what they were carrying, these days, after their reorganization. I notice two different 3-D printers sitting on a shelf. Toys. :-).

Been raining here for a couple of days. Lew

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

Same here, being on the voter's list makes one liable for jury service but only if one is under 70 years old.

Kids' parties nice for the parents! Ye gods! I managed never to give one. I achieved this by always offering the birthday child a choice between a party and a particular outing that I knew was longed for. I never got it wrong.

The oak tree is more than capable of demolishing my home. I knew that it would have to come down when it died. The bits that fall on my roof , are getting progressively larger.

Our house prices are completely insane and it is certainly a giant bubble. Rents are outrageously large as well. The people in the caravans have not offended anyone. The Island regards itself as a tourist haven (very debateable as it costs a fortune to cross on the ferries). The distinction between residential and holiday homes is kept ferociously I regret to say.

Incomers remain incomers and are called overners. However true islanders are probably in the minority now. I am not an islander but people seem not to realise this. There are still some people with an island accent.

I have been mulling over your mother's statement about the people who come to one first. It has been fascinating to go over my past encounters with the human race and to decide whether I agree with her or not. I have decided that there is some truth in it but that it is not an absolute.

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Thanks, the weather news here has been repeating that El Nino news too. No one really knows what it means to the local weather patterns until it is done. Most years here there is a 50% chance of an El Nino occurring. Last summer was at a 75% probability.

The western (inland of the Great Dividing Range) parts of Queensland and New South Wales are dry and get much drier as you move closer to the centre of the continent. I can't understand how they farm cattle there anyway, but they do keep very low stock counts over truly massive areas.

I'm not excited by hot and dry summers, but am slowly cleaning up the surrounding forest. It is a big job though and there are some seriously competing ideologies going on down here. I tend to be guided by what the Aboriginals used to do and the historical accounts of the early settlers and explorers. It is as good a guide as any, but there is always the wild card of the arsonist. If I could eliminate that risk, I'd manage the place differently, but alas...

What does El Nino mean to the PNW? I'm sure it will have an impact of some sort, maybe?

A good use of the bookcases too. I'll bet they're full of well thumbed through books? :-)!

Great to hear that the big birds are making a come back. They're wise to be wary of humans. The eagles here in contrast soar at all sorts of elevations and sometimes they are merely clearing the roof. It is an impressive display of their presence.

Nice. Yeah stocktake can be a nightmare. I once worked in a steel distributor and not only was the stocktake held in the middle of winter and the wind whipped through the giant shed, but counting piles of steel sheet that is less than 1mm (1/25th of an inch) thick does your eyes in after a while. Don't make me recount. hehe!

Wow, 3D printers. You don't see them here much at all. I suspect that people use them as some sort of technology talisman. Toys is exactly the correct description for them. Now if they could do the same trick in metal, I'd be really impressed...

It was as cold as it has been today since last August. It was 1.4'C (34.5'F) this morning and as I was feeding the chickens and cleaning their bedding, it started sleeting. Brrr. It may be shorts and t-shirt weather for both yourself and Inge, but it is a bit of a shock for a temperate climate guy like me. I did some work in the big smoke today and it was in a factory/warehouse and it was very cold in there. Picked up all sorts of supplies too including the 20kg (about 44 pounds) of organic rolled oats for the dog food recipe. It will be interesting to see how it all goes. And in a strange turn of events (relevant to your previous comment), CERES had something to do with it (the Melbourne based CERES that is!) ;-)!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Well age does have its advantages if you can dodge jury service! Seriously, if it is a big case, it could consume your life and take you away from your family and perhaps leaving them destitute and the legal system has no visible incentive to finish things at a reasonably crisp pace. All in all, it was probably a good system once long ago.

The legal system is out of reach for us lot.

Oh you are clever. Well done for that and I'm going to file that one away for possible later use. Top work.

Sorry to hear that about the tree. It is difficult to come to that decision and I respect your common sense approach. I trust all of the timber will go towards a good use?

I once knew a guy that purchased old trees that had either fallen over in the city - or were about to be felled - and he milled and dried the timber and produced beautiful furniture, bench tops, custom cabinets. Really beautiful work.

The lady that sells me my bulk bread baking supplies had an actual tree come down in her driveway.

How did it go in the big winds that you had recently?

Yes, sadly to say that it is a total speculative bubble here too and no one wants to talk about. Rents are a disaster, how young people can afford to rent is beyond me. Youth unemployment and under employment is a serious issue here too. Your planning laws are a moment in time, the authorities here have backed down from the extreme stance in relation to building codes after the 2009 bushfires. All things cahnge, although it doesn't make it easy for people who are inconvenienced by the regulations.

Ahh, I've read that the UK has local accents all over the place, but wondered how that had fared in recent times as people seem to be a bit more mobile.

A very clever observation. But of course, she was only partially correct and there was a strong element of truth in her observation - it just isn't true in all circumstances. Being a sociopath, she had a great deal of trouble connecting with others, making small talk or even maintaining a dialogue - like we are here. They're easy to spot, because they have a common (but not always) personality flaw (amongst others too!) in that they believe they're smarter than other people. Whilst that may be the case in some circumstances, they can often fail at very basic social niceties.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - El Nino here? Warmer, dryer winters. Rain comes more in deluges, rather than being spread out. Summers are hotter and dryer.

Stock take at the bookstores was a grind. They had an outside crew come in, but the regular staff had all the prep work. And, we had to spot check the crews to make sure there were accurate counts. And, little slips of paper, everywhere, to make sure each area got counted.

Oh, the classical world had gods or goddesses for every occasion. A lot of borrowing and superimposing. Importing cults from distant lands. Local deities. The granges, here, were very big on Pomona ... aka Ceres, I think. Before my friends moved to Idaho, they lived on Ceres Hill Road.

Speaking of Idaho, I leave tomorrow morning. Getting ready for the trip seems under control. Lots of last minute stuff to do. My internet access will probably be limited, over the next week. Keep the home fires burning :-). Lew

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

The high winds only brought down a lot of small twigs and leaves plus a few small branches.

The oak tree will probably go into my son's wood stove. It is just possible that the tree feller may do it more cheaply in exchange for the wood. But probably not because he won't be able to bring a vehicle near. It would be a fair way to carry out the wood.

Some time ago, I told you that I was 50ft. above sea level. Don't remember whether or not I told you that the family says I am wrong. They reckon that I am at least 80ft. up and that it could be even more.

Hawkweed is flowering and so is what I regard as the ordinary periwinkle.

Inge

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

corr. I said ordinary periwinkle; this was incorrect. It should have been ordinary speedwell.

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

That is a pretty good description of an El Nino here too. Ouch. The deluges do as much damage as the hot and dry summers...

I just spotted this article: Queensland drought spreads to record 80 per cent of the state

Wow, an outside crew to do stocktake. I mean I get that help is required, but outside crew sort of has an audit like feel to it. Never seen that here - anywhere. Oh yeah, the paper everywhere and by the end of the day, you get a bit sick of looking at the stock. Still, if it well organised and runs smoothly then it proceeds at a crisp pace. Mind you, I've seen some serious disasters too.

The guy that ran the election count here was barely organised and by the end of the night, I was - and everyone else too - glad to be out of there... He just couldn't seem to take advice which would assist smoothing the whole proceedings.

Too funny: The road to CERES...

No worries and I wish you all the best with your journey across the countryside. You are going at a beautiful time of year too. I look forward to hearing your stories when you get back - or can check in next!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Glad to hear that there has been no damage or injuries.

It is interesting what you've written about vehicle access as I've been giving much thought recently about firewood management without vehicles. It isn't as complex a matter as I'd first thought, but involves a lot more work at the site of the tree itself.

Mind you, I have little interest in firewood sourced from the very largest trees here. It is almost - but not quite - in the too hard basket. It is a big job.

I had to cut a new plate steel baffle for the firebox this morning. When I did the reconstruction of the box, you could just tell that the internal flue baffle was going to fail sooner rather than later. It stops flames roaring up the flue and thus reduces the damage to the flue.

Ahh, heating with firewood is a very hands on process and I respect every chunk of timber used. The old timers used to say that firewood heats you up on several occasions: Felling, cutting, splitting, stacking and hauling... as well as heating.

Well that's alright. Did they get a GPS or look at an elevation map or something like that? Who knows what those smart phones can do if they have a GPS receiver in them? I'm about 2,300ft above sea level. A lot of the coastal area is very low lying here...

Ahh speedwell - of course! A useful herb. The periwinkle here is prone to drying out if a drought occurs. A very old timer around here tells me to watch that plant as it will tell you much about the ground water and potential bushfire risk.

It's pretty cold here, but the weekend should warm up. Are you at all affected by the El Nino - does it stretch that far or is it more a Pacific Ocean thing? You have a strong warm ocean current that rises from the south (from memory - I think).

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

Very wet, windy and gloomy today.

I deliberately don't have road access to my property; the result is that most people (around here) don't know that it exists! The difficulties in getting wood out are exacerbated by the gradients. In some places there are vertical drops.

With regard to height above sea level, the family were estimating. I don't think that any of them have a smart phone. I actually think that I don't know anyone who has one. It seems that the media is really divorced from real life.

I don't have any periwinkles on my land. A shame, because it is my favourite flower.

El nino: I believe that it does affect us but I am quite ignorant on the subject. I tend to just deal with whatever weather arrives. Living on a small island means that the weather forecast is almost always wrong even the 24 hour one. It is the gulf stream that keeps the British Isles warmer than one would expect from its latitude. I believe that it rises in the Gulf of Mexico and goes up our west coast We get dire warnings as to what will happen if it suddenly reverses, which is supposed to have happened in the past. It occurs suddenly and would put us into an ice age. Again this is not an area where I know much.

Inge

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris!

What a beautiful scene: your handsome sheds in a row, with a beautiful garden below, rather like the view of a charming village.

What a dream set of bookshelves. We have built a lot of individual bookshelves, but they are scattered about the house, in every room (even the bathroom). One can never have enough, I have found.

Thanks to you, Chris, our water storage is getting better and better. With an average of 48 inches of rain a year you wouldn't think we should worry about it, but we actually have a "drought" (feels silly calling it that compared to California and Queensland) on rare occasions. We are checking into installing a hand pump on our well. It is electric-only right now, and sometimes we have long power outages with no water access, though our storage (see above) is pretty good for week or so.

Pam

Cathy McGuire said...

Hi, Chris -
I've been struggling to keep up with blogs and posting, as the yard has priority... but I love this post - and I wanted to mention I'd tried the mead as you suggested and I like the results! My mead came from reclaiming honey and wax from my dead hives - hated to just toss the honey-water that resulted, so I boiled it, added yeast and let Nature work. I am also going for fruit wines, as i always have more raspberries and boysenberries than I can eat or even preserve. Sweet, but I like sweet wines.

Anyway, I admire a man who puts his bookshelves up first. Got priorities in the right order, that man! ;-)

Pam in Virginia said...

@Anyone:

I would like to build a tiny frog/toad/bird pond in our garden. We have a pretty serious problem with mosquitoes. How on earth can I avoid providing a whole new breeding ground for them?

Pam

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Yes, wet and gloomy describes the place here today too. I suspect that deep down, culturally speaking, a lot of people of German and Scottish descent that travelled down under all those long years ago were very comfortable with the weather conditions here! I thought that you were heading into summer, although being on an island would make for an unusual and very unpredictable climate?

Today was a washout so instead I visited a few local gardens and enjoyed a superb locally made Moroccan lamb pie and lamington instead. Tomorrow is meant to be fog then sunny, so work shall continue at that point...

The media does seem to be disconnected from the real world and that is a fair observation on your part. Smart phones are a technological talisman for people and those devices play an important part in their belief systems. Everyone I know (outside of this household) has a smart phone. It is embarrassing to admit that fact. Down under there are more active mobile phones than adults... How is that even possible?

I must confess that I do have a handheld GPS device which would provide your approximate elevation quite accurately. It is a very old school device and was used for the multiple day hikes that I sometimes used to head off on. Now that I live in a remote spot I no longer feel the need for space from other people, but once a few years back, I set off with a back pack (which was amazingly heavy) full of supplies and walked the: Great South West Walk from end to end. If you have the bandwidth, the image gallery is worth looking at.

A good choice, as periwinkles are a beautiful flower.

Exactly, the weather forecast rarely describes your exact location and that makes perfect sense. It is the same here as the geological conditions are so unusual that it creates anomalies and it can rain here when it rains nowhere else and your island would be much the same.

Who knows what the future may hold, it is going to be very weird and that is a certainty!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Many thanks. A lot of thought went into ensuring that the sheds were both practical and aesthetic! Yeah, they are sort of like a small shed village. ;-)!

Well, reading in the bathroom is just as important as anywhere else in the house and one can never have too much reading time or storage for all of those books. Although, I do tend to cull books that where considered not worthy of keeping.

Yes, 48 inches is a decent amount of rainfall, but it also depends on many factors such as: when is that rainfall received; and the health and depth of your top soil which retains that rainfall.

Glad to hear that you are installing a hand pump as they are very valuable devices in a power outage. Top work! I often wonder about the claims of wells being drilled down to 1,000ft just to get fresh water as no tree can have roots that reach down that far and it takes an awful lot of energy to pull the water to the surface.

The water conversation last week was intended to be a wakeup call to people. Water is everything and you never know when a drought is around the corner (like you are experiencing).

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

No worries, I struggle with the balance between writing, reading, doing and living as well. There is no answer to that struggle, but we all do the best we can.

Oh, well done! As the mead ages the mix will become drier to taste which is the yeast converting the sugar to alcohol. So, for a sweeter taste, there is no harm in trying the brew at four months or even two months. It is such an easy drink to make and it is really pleasing to see a resurgence in the brew.

One of my hives died here too as it was attacked by the ants following a swarm. I'm comfortable with the swarm, but the ants... Grrr! The other hive is overwintering quite nicely though. Hang in there as I'm going to build a very odd looking mix of langstroth and top bar hives over the next few months. There is a colony on order at the bee supplier.

Raspberries and boysenberries would make a superb brew. Yum! Plus excellent fresh eating, stewing and jam making too.

hehe! Many thanks! A guy has to do what a guy has to do. hehe!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

That is a tough question. Down here a lot of people put carp (yes, I'm aware of the environmental impacts of that choice) in their ponds and dams to eat the mosquito larvae. They also use Bass fish down here which survive almost down to mud levels during a drought when the dams are low.

Essentially, you require an entire eco-system and have to work out what eats mosquitoes and then work backwards from that point. Mosquitoes are a nuisance here too over summer and they appear at dusk. Sometimes when I'm supervising the chickens in the orchard during the evening, the mosquitoes will arrive early. The march flies bite during the daytime to similar effect.

The Aboriginals used to apply herbal concoctions to their skin to ward off insect attack.

The water tanks here all have stainless steel mesh screens to stop the mosquitoes from using them as a giant breeding ground.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Susan,

Many thanks for the comment and from an artist, that is high praise.

The plants, infrastructure and landscape are my canvas here.

PS: Your artwork is delightful.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

What is 'lamington'?

In theory we are heading towards summer but there is never any guarantee that it will arrive. Even if it does, it may only come in short stretches of a few days.

My son is having a problem with a neighbour where he is building. my son says that the man is one of those who has done everything, seen everything and knows everything. He appears as soon as my son starts work and never stops talking. I am told that the man is clearly lonely and does have building experience so my son says that it is not a situation in which he is prepared to be rude. He has got rid of him on 3 occasions so far, by citing 'health and safety'.

Inge

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

What are the demographics of the countryside around you? Are there large farm estates, with the requisite mansions, dotted with regular folks like my family (meaning the struggling what's-left-of-the-middle-class) and some poor pockets, all mixed together in a rural area like we are?

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

I certainly appreciated your local account of the Great Depression at ADR. Some of the very hardest of times; sounds a lot like the way it was here, except for the fact that Hollywood kept on making flashy movies to distract some lucky people.

If YOU like the dog food, THEY'LL like the dog food, especially if they see you eating it. I cooked for our numerous dogs for years and used to usually taste it. I especially enjoyed the dog biscuits . . . The last of our dogs (ages 16 and 17) recently died, within 3 weeks of each other. They had always been rivals and I think the last one was so bewildered by the loss of his competitor that he just gave up.

Pam

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

You are in for a treat! Lamingtons are a square sponge cake completely coated in a chocolate sauce with a very liberal splashing of desiccated coconut. Prior to the coating though, the sponge is usually cut in half and a layer of strawberry (or raspberry) jam is pasted between the two halves and they are then re-joined: Lamington

They really are good and they take an ordinary sponge cake to the whole next level. Total yum!

Oh wow. I thought that being in the South meant that your summer weather would be more reliable or consistent?

Sorry to hear that. Your son clearly has more tolerance and perhaps also better manners than I. That problem is the Graham 5,000 overdrive problem! Seriously. You see, years ago when I was living in the city, there was this neighbour who was on a very dubious disability support pension and had been living in the same house for 40 odd years and he owned it outright so wasn't going anywhere (he paid less than 1/10th the amount I paid for the house too). He once told me that his wife was messier than he was and he was very comfortable with that situation. They had a daughter and she always looked miserable. He was a very affable bloke though, but into everyone's business. If you wanted to keep abreast of all of the gossip in the street, then just ask Graham, he'd fill you in. No worries.

Now interestingly, I noted that he was heavily involved in every council planning (building) application that happened in the street. He had a whole lot of free time too. So, I ran the plans past him before I submitted them to council, and all was good with the world. Not a single objection!

Anyway, like your sons nemesis, Graham could back you into a corner and talk your ear off. After a while it became obvious that he had a little bit of trouble maintaining a two way conversation (i.e. dialogue). And with that knowledge came the realisation that you could cut him short and get on with whatever it was that you were doing. As a hint, the first time is the hardest as it grates against the natural social programming (which is what Graham was taking advantage of). He didn't mind it in the least! Go on, give it a go and let us know how it goes.

Incidentally, to cut him off, I usually said: Sorry mate, nice to speak with you but I’ve gotta run there’s work to do today. If he persists then your son might say: Sorry mate, but you can’t be on the worksite, the insurers get a bit weirded out by that. And leave it at that. 99 times out of 100, it’ll work. Have faith!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Your description exactly matches this area. There are some seriously wealthy people living in this small mountain range. Some of the old hill stations date back to the 19th century and they have some of the oldest and tallest exotic trees in the state. Occasionally they'll open to the public and I never miss an opportunity to look through the gardens. But then there is everyone else living in and around this area. There is virtually no work to be had around the area and most people commute into Melbourne. Fortunately the country trains are very good and much faster than a car.

The farm here is on the Southern slopes so it receives more reliable winter rainfall from the Southern Ocean. The northern side of the mountain range has a far longer growing season than here. I once drove the fire fighting tanker around the whole mountain range to put some kilometres on the clock (they have to be regularly used) and it was 90km (56 miles) around. The entire mountain range is forested - although it wasn't always that way. The different patches of forest reflect the different levels of soil fertility and rainfall.

What a massive question!

Of course. I believe unemployment was slightly higher here. In John Kenneth Galbraith's book the Great Crash 1929, he mentioned that the film makers were advised by the government to produce films that lifted the spirits of the population. Here, they made the train services free on weekends and people took up the hobby of bush walking.

Sorry to hear about the loss of your oldest dogs. They can become very closely bonded even if they are frenemies. Do you have any suggestions for dog food and biscuits?

Cheers

Chris

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

Your area does sound quite a bit like mine, excepting the climate, which I think is quite different. I've never driven all the way 'round the whole range, but I suspect it may even be about the same size. The Southwest Mountains run parallel to the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are part of the Appalachians. The Appalachians are the backbone of the eastern United States, running from Alabama up into Canada http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachian_Mountains.

For the dog food I usually made a "casserole". I put cut-up vegetables - carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes (yams?), squash, greens from the garden which I have dried when we have an over-abundance, a touch of salt, and whatever cut of meat was on sale, and fill the dish about half full of water. This is cooked in a covered dish in the oven at 400 degrees F. (204 deg. C) for 1/2 hour, reduce heat to 350 deg. F (176 deg. C) for 1/2 hour, reduce heat to 175 deg. F (79 deg. C) for 45 minutes. I know - my cooking technique is nuts - the point being to start at a high heat and gradually let it cook longer and lower. It smells so good cooking. I became a vegetarian a few years ago, but before that I certainly enjoyed the dog food. I cook brown rice separately on occasion and add that to it. Your oats would do just as well. I'm sure there's a way to cook it all together (especially with that much water). Our dogs ate a lot of our food with us, so I didn't worry about the grains too much. The last 12 or 13 years of their lives they never saw a veterinarian except for an occasional visit to a rabies clinic for a vaccination as rabies can be a serious problem anywhere in this country.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

For the biscuits I just threw an egg, some of the meat fat skimmed off of their "casserole" (or from a people meat dish), and some flour (any kind of flour) - sorry, I'm not the kind of cook who likes to measure; there is undoubtedly a ratio of fat to flour that really matters, I should have used a recipe. Then I mixed it to a cookie dough consistency, patted or rolled it out, sliced that into squares with a knife, and cooked it on an ungreased cookie sheet at (?) - it varied, usually a high heat for 30-40 min., then turn off the oven and let them sit in the oven till cool to get crunchy. A lot of the time they didn't get crunchy, and the crunchy ones stay fresh longer, but they didn't care. They had marrow bones to chew on for their teeth. A disclaimer: Occasionally I was just too busy to keep up with the dog-cooking and they got store-bought food. They liked to have a change sometimes anyway.

I grill once week for the rest of the family and I always cooked a portion on the grill for the dogs. Boy, they loved that!

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

P.S. The only pet we have left is Eldora, a bearded dragon. You know where her relatives originally came from!

Pam

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

You shirkers. For a long time I had a job that was both government and union, and our contract required that we be paid our regular wages for jury duty (minus the daily allowance that the court paid us at the end). So I never minded getting the summons in the mail. It was cleaner, easier work than my regular job and a change in the routine. Sometimes the hours were shorter, too. Courts around here generally start late, knock off early and take a long lunch.

I did not always get picked for a jury, but when I did, the cases were interesting and the trials only lasted a week or two. Every jury I served on had common sense and took its responsibility seriously. I felt like I was making a contribution, I learned something about the legal system, and I think we reached the right verdicts.

Of course for some people, jury duty is a big sacrifice, but if it's only a minor inconvenience, don't try to get out of it. If you were ever in trouble with the law, you would want to be tried by your peers, not by a bunch of old retired folks like me.

heather said...

Hi Chris-
Glad to see you were once again taking appropriate safety measures in your shed roofing work. ;)

Jury duty- I was called last year for a trial which the judge estimated would take 3 to 4 MONTHS to conclude. Thankfully I was excused as I was able to argue that serving so long would be a hardship. I wondered who in the world they would find who could serve that long? Retires, I suppose, or unemployed people without too many home responsibilities. I expect to be called again this year because I was excused last year, and am willing to do my civic duty, but still hope it won't be a whopper of a trial.

Children's birthday parties: there should be a law against inviting anyone except immediate blood relatives. My kids often get invited to friends' parties- torture for all the adults involved. Orchidwallis, your solution is pure wisdom. Duly noted.

El niño- the year I moved out to CA from Michigan was the last big El niño here. I was teaching my first year of elementary school and was completely unprepared for the climate. When we started school in August it was over 100 degrees, with no air conditioning, and the farmers were burning the rice stubble, so the smoke was so thick I could barely see to the back of the classroom. I thought I was in Hades, and I'm sure my 35 fourth-graders, jammed in elbow-to-elbow, probably did too. It just stayed hot, long after I thought it should be fall, and then on November 1st, it was like someone turned on the faucet. It rained and rained until Easter, I swear. We had 34 days in a row of indoor recess- a whole new level of Hades. I ended the school year wondering how and why anyone lived here. I was very relieved to learn the next year that although the heat was typical, the unrelenting rain was not.

Mmm, mead- sounds delicious. Will have to try it. Wonder if any commercial brands are as good as home brewed? I should probably taste it before committing to making a batch.

Pam- for Mosquitos in water, here we can obtain mosquito fish, tiny little guys about the size of minnows, for free from the county. You can also buy them pretty inexpensively online, I think. They breed like crazy and can survive in shallow, warm water like a tiny pool. Some people use goldfish here too, and I think they would survive your winters outdoors, but I''ve heard of some people having trouble with raccoons going after the goldfish. Also, you might look into barley straw. I seem to recall it inhibits something in pond water, though now that I think of it, it might be algae... Better check with Google on that one.

--Heather in CA

heather said...

Pam-
Never mind the barley straw, I checked and it's algae that it inhibits. Darn.

I also read that mosquito fish can be aggressive towards tadpoles, which you wouldn't want in a frog pond, but that tadpoles themselves love to dine on mosquito larvae. So you may not have a mosquito problem if you get some frogs moving in right away.

Good luck-
--Heather in CA

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam, Deborah and Heather,

Thanks for the lovely comments, canny observations (seriously nothing gets past you lot! hehe!) and excellent questions.

I'm heading out for food tonight and am unable to reply, but will reply with the new blog entry tomorrow.

Cheers

Chris

Angus Wallace said...

Hi Chris,

I love that shed. It's a beauty -- especially the bent corro around the corners -- they don't make em like that any more, tho you occasionally see old ones with the sides of the roof bent around instead of flashing. Nice load of firewood too. I was pretty skeptical about using firewood in the city, as I thought it would be too much work for the reward, but I'm coming around to it, and might try and get a wood oven to use in winter when the solar's not doing much. I'd only want a very little one -- maybe like the old Metters improved no. 2 -- do you know much about that? I wouldn't want it to use much wood...

I also noticed in your photo that your PV panels overhang the side of the roof. I'm not across the standards, but I didn't think that was done -- did you need to reinforce it particularly in case it catches the wind?

Cheers, Angus