Monday, 14 September 2015

Picket lines

Spring landed with a thump over the past few days. The sun shone strongly and the weather was sweet. In the warmer conditions, the bees foraged for pollen and nectar amongst the many flowers at the farm. By Sunday afternoon you could almost hear the buzzing of the insects as they were all busily going about their tasks. The bees in particular were enjoying the blue Echium flowers:
A happy European honey bee is set to land on a blue Echium flower

The Echium plants were a chance gift from a nearby neighbour. In the early days at the farm, those first Echiums were a very unimpressive set of specimens and to be honest they looked a bit sad. But I really appreciate gifts of plants, and so I planted the original gift plants in a well fed garden bed. And the plants just grew. And then they grew some more - and self seeded. I had no idea at the time just how big these plants can get. Those original Echium plants were like Triffids in that they just kept growing – it was a bit scary. The Echium plants have shrugged off frosts, heat waves, drought, dogs, wallabies – you name it, but at the same time those plants also produce copious flowers for most of the year.

I mentioned wallabies and Echium plants because occasionally, a wallaby will bounce into the middle of an Echium plant just to see what is in there. In the process of jumping into the middle of the plant, the wallaby will destroy branches and leave a gaping hole in the middle of the plant. Does an Echium plant worry about such damaging marsupial action? No, because a couple of months later, the Echium plant simply regrows all of the damaged branches, flowers and leaves.

Where we we, ah yes, the sun was shining very strongly over the past few days and in fact on Sunday whilst I was working outside in the full sun on the new picket fence (see below), I unfortunately scored a minor case of sunburn on my skin – despite the fact that the UV is only rated as moderate (edit - serves you right, I told you to put on sunscreen).

Fortunately, the strong sunlight has produced excellent hot water (very toasty too!) via the solar hot water panels as well as excellent electricity via the solar photovoltaic panels. Today, I had a great deal of trouble trying to work out what exactly to do with all of the excess electricity generated by the sun. Fortunately, there is always the task of baking dog food in the electric oven, so I went a bit feral and produced well over 140 oven baked dog biscuits this afternoon. The dogs were excessively helpful with that cooking task too! As an interesting side story only Poopy the Pomeranian (who is technically a Swedish Lapphund) was clamouring for more food this evening, but he does have an unfortunate and unmentionable relationship with food. I could see it in his eyes that he was trying to tell me that: “food is not the problem, food is the solution!” In his particular case, portion control seems to me to be the solution, although Poopy and I have learned to agree to disagree on such matters.

Anyway, the solar photovoltaics (PV) were producing a stupendous quantity of electricity at about lunchtime. Just for the techno geeks out there, I thought that it might be worth talking about PV solar panels for a little bit (everyone else who is not interested in such matters or doesn’t identify themselves as a techno geek can skip to the next paragraph or so – look for the welcome back everyone message in italics below!). 

We now prepare ourselves to enter the world of the techno geek: The dodgiest thing about solar PV is that a solar panel will only ever produce the rated output under absolutely perfect conditions. Perfect conditions means installing that panel at the equator, facing exactly north, at about the summer solstice and hopefully it’s not too hot. Therefore, in the real world, you can expect about 80% of the rated output of a solar panel. So a 190W panel will produce – in the real world – 152W which is 80% of the rated output. Will you occasionally get more output from that panel? – sure, but don’t expect that output much of the time!

Today, as I was struggling to work out what to do with all of this excess electricity, I spotted this reading on the monitor display:
The Amps generated by the solar PV panels at about lunchtime today
What that display means is that the 4.2kW of solar PV panels were producing 111A (A stands for Amps) at that point in time. With a bit of maths magic we can convert that reading to kW to understand what the reading actually means and the formula for that conversion is A x V = W (or Amps x Volts = Watts). So 111A x 29V (because that was the voltage of the batteries at the time of the reading) = 3.219kW. And, if we use some more maths magic we can divide that reading by 80% to equal 4.023kW (which is not far from the actual rated output of the 4.2kW of panels albeit at 80%). The formula for that calculation is 3.219kW / 0.80 = 4.023kW. Enough techno geek stuff as I can see that some of you are now falling asleep – I did warn you to skip this bit!

Welcome back everyone - for everyone else who is not a techno geek, we now resume regular programming:

With the strong sun over the past couple of days, many of the deciduous trees have broken their dormancy. I spotted this advanced Japanese maple sending out the first of its leaves today in amongst a garden bed of borage (note the blue flowers) and daffodils. The borage is an excellent feed for the chickens all year around, great food for the bees and there are many dozens of these plants all about the farm.
Japanese maple broke its dormancy this week
The citrus fruit trees have also been producing strongly over the past few weeks and in the photo below there are lemons, limes and grapefruit. I also have many other types of citrus fruit trees growing here, but a few years back over a very hot summer, the wallaby decided that it was hungry enough to eat the citrus fruit trees and they are now only slowly regaining their former glory. Observant readers will note that the Australian round lime in the centre right of the photo has suffered considerable damage over the past few weeks from the many house wallabies here at the farm. I’m very annoyed with the wallabies, but they have been unsympathetic to my complaints. Hopefully, sooner or later the fruit tree will outgrow the reach of those dastardly marsupials.
The citrus fruit trees have been producing strongly over the past few weeks
The construction of the berry enclosure has continued apace this week and I have now installed over 200 pickets around the enclosure. There are still about 120 pickets to go before the area is entirely closed off from all of the curious herbivores here (take that wallabies). As well as the many berries that will be planted into that area over the next week or so, I’m also considering planting all of the tomato plants in there just for this season.
Many more pickets on the berry bed were installed over the past few days
The construction on the Cherokee new wave TM bee hive continued this week and metal leg stands were added. Movable plywood boards were added so that the bee colony could be restricted to a smaller area in either its early days (only 5 frames are delivered with a purchased bee nucleus hive) or if the colony is having troubles and cannot support a larger area – this saves them energy in having to heat a larger area than necessary. The heat is required by the bees to raise brood. Also the editor suggested two aluminium angles at the top rear of the hive box which make for easier positioning of the roof (a good thing when you may be covered by angry bees and in a bit of a hurry to put the roof back onto the hive box!).
The new design hive box is almost complete
Three round hive entry holes were drilled into the thick hardwood today and it is intended that two of them will be easily closed to reduce heat loss over the winter. I haven’t quite worked out the details relating to that entrance closing system yet. I also purchased some super nifty metal clips that secure the roof to the hive box and these were installed onto the hive today.
The other side of the new design hive box with roof in place and secured by some super nifty metal clips
All that is left to be done now is to: wait for the roof plywood to fully dry over the next week or so; construct a plywood flap over the Perspex double glazed observation port; and then give the whole hive construction a good lick of quality paint.

Spring is such a great time to walk around and observe the orchard and garden. And it is amazing what you can sometimes see on those walks.
A tale of two otherwise identical Jonathon Apple Trees
Many years ago, I planted these two Jonathon apple trees which were sourced from the same supplier on the same day. One of those two apple trees was planted into a well fed garden bed, whilst the other was planted not too far away in the orchard proper. The apple planted into the well fed garden bed now has a trunk that is almost twice as thick as that of the apple tree in the orchard. What I have learned from observing that difference is that well fed fruit trees will grow much faster than those that are not as well fed.

How did the house get here?
It’s been a few weeks since weeks since I wrote about house construction stuff, so this week’s blog will take us back to October 2011, where I installed two sets of galvanised steel steps. Because of the building regulations relating to bush fires, timber stairs were not an option as they are combustible. Steel stairs are normally seen in apartment blocks and commercial buildings and I had to obtain a quote from a commercial supplier. Fortunately, the supplier was quiet, so they whipped up the stairs in no time flat at a reasonable price.

I unfortunately had no idea just how heavy these steel stairs would be, but as they craned the steel stairs onto the trusty old trailer, which made a resounding thud sound on impact, I was starting to get a bit nervous.

Anyway, with a bit of farm engineering, I tipped the stairs off the back of the trailer and then proceeded to use a sledgehammer to slide them along the concrete towards their final position. The sledgehammer did not leave a single mark on the stairs! I literally could not move, budge or lift the bigger of the two sets of steel stairs any other way. To lift the stairs to the appropriate height, I simply put a bottle jack underneath it and slowly lifted the steel stairs into their final spot.
A large and very heavy set of steel stairs were installed onto the house
Even the dogs had to get their own set of fortunately much smaller and lighter steel stairs.
Steel stairs for the exclusive use of the dogs in their enclosure
Much of that month was spent painting the inside surfaces of the house.
The author up a ladder with a brush painting the ceiling of the house
And then one day the inside painting was done.
The hallway painting was now complete. Hmmm, nice bookshelves!
Way back then, the fruit trees in the orchard were very small. Observant readers will recognise the lemon, lime and grapefruit from the above photo in their much younger days.
The orchard in its younger days
The temperature outside here at about 9.45pm is 15.2’C degrees Celsius (59.4’F). So far this year there has been 575.6mm (22.7 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total of 569.4mm (22.4 inches). Apparently there is a big storm due to hit here much later tonight!


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Well, fall is most decidedly on tap, for here. I suppose our fall "thud" will be the first frost.

Ohh. The Echium are really pretty! Since I like blue flowering anything, I'll have to look into growing them here. And, I'll look into borage. Anything to cut the feed bills. But my chickens are so finicky about what they'll eat. They turn their noses up at lettuce or broccoli scraps. Banana peals, diced up cucumber and grapes are fine. I think I mentioned they decimated the horseradish and left the lemon balm alone one year, totally reversed the next.

I've noticed my animals are wanting to "pack it on" for winter. Nell eats and wants more food. Ditto, Beau. My chickens seem to be antsy about getting a bit more. The 11 get 50 oz of layer crumble a day, plus a big bowl of "treats". Scraps, more crumble, oats and yogurt (sometimes.) I wonder if it's enough, right now. Also, did you ever publish a recipe for your dog biscuits? You don't have to lay the whole thing out, again. Just a date and I'll go back and take a look at it.

I read the solar bit. Go on, admit it. You always say the Editor is a wiz at maths. She did the calculations, right? :-). Either that or she's got you trained up to plug in the numbers and get them to do what you want :-).

That's a wizard idea to have the positioning bits for the bee house roof. Faster job, less squashed bees.

Like so much about your place, positioning those steps looks like it was quit a job. When I tackle jobs like that, my mantra is "You only have to do it once ... there is an end."

I do not envy you having to paint those book cases. When I was getting my store open, I thought I'd go mad as I had two large book cases that required 4 (!) coats of paint, to look good. I pretty much painted everything in the store (ceilings, walls, some book cases) in the highest gloss white I could find. Paid off. Many people commented on how bright the place looked, not like the dark dens of most used bookstores. Not that it did me any good :-).

I don't know about there, but here, paint is pretty rubbish. I think I mentioned that my Dad was a painter. It's really hard to find a good enamel paint, anymore. It's all gone to synthetics. Early on, they were really bad. Especially for kitchens and bathrooms. Now, they're a bit better, but still can't hold a candle to the old enamels. And, since their isn't much enamel around, it's really expensive, when you can find it. If I ever pick up a brush again, I might look into the old milk paints. I've got several books with old recipes. From what I understand, they're pretty tough. Lew

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

Thanks for the book reference, I'll see if I can get hold of a copy.

Nice to see those bookshelves, of yours, again.

Lucky you, Spring on the way. I spotted the first yellow leaves today. Due to this wet summer everything is green as green can be. Rain and stormy winds today.

I have eaten snails in France, they were excellent. We used to gather winkles from the rocks on the shore here but too much sewage around now. Something that I failed to get to grips with are whelks. I only had them once and they were akin to chewing rubber. Can't understand why jellied eels were embraced in this country when smoked eels are to die for. Have never seen them here, they really should be introduced.

Grape vines: I had a glorious black eating grape in a greenhouse 3 homes back. Two long branches ran the length of the greenhouse. I pruned back completely to these branches every year and thinned out the bunches of grapes as they formed. Vines are very hardy.

I used to play bridge in a previous more conventional life. Preferred friendly games as I lack the killer instinct and don't really feel sufficiently strongly about winning. The only drawback is that it is a partnership game and I prefer solo games. Can take awhile to lose at chess but I think that one needs to start that game as a child if one wants to be good at it. The game that I really like is Othello/Reversi.

Have been putting together sloe gin today. This is the first time that I have frozen sloes and I lack conviction about it. It means wet sloes instead of dry ones.
I'll know around Christmas time when I try it.


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Good to hear. Chess is a tough game and beyond me - I just can't recall that many moves in advance. You may find this funny, but years ago, I workmate once destroyed me completely over a couple of games of chess during lunchtime. The first game he took the king in under 10 moves. It was an impressive feat! Hehe. Oh well. Hey did they have chess clubs in your part of the world a few decades back? Anyway, that guy was bad enough, but the thought of playing against a computer strikes fear into my heart. ;-)! Winning, losing it is all the same part of life's rich tapestry - but to be sure winning does appear to be more fun than losing. Hehe!!!

Yeah, exactly. Old ruins are chock full of stories and you never quite know what those stories will be.

Of course, yeah the towns here don't generally have reenactors. There probably isn't the tourist trade here to support such things. No, those towns here are more like well maintained musuems - but they generally also have a working commercial side to them. It is more like if the zombies descended on a town and some thoughtful person who was left behind decided to keep the infrastructure just was it was just before the zombies hit. Plus interspersed through those shops will be the normal small town strip shops like a bakery (if there is enough local custom), a pub (which probably might have enough local custom) and maybe a small hardware or general store. Generally the reasons for the towns existence in the first place was the gold rush - and then later agriculture. But large scale agriculture doesn't employ too many people - you may have noticed that!

Incidentally, if you poke your nose through the steel bars on the pubs courtyard - you can see the grapevine for free. Honestly, I didn't even notice that you had to pay for it in the first place (I have no problems financially supporting the grapevine).

Of course, it is the human monsters that can do the worst damage. Stephen King certainly understands the human condition and he can tap into deep fears!

25 at a time! Wow, yet again your library service is truly remarkable. I enjoyed the film as it isn't often that we discuss that younger adults get stricken with cancer - our society treats them as if it is an embarrassment or that they're somehow at fault.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

It will be very interesting to hear your perspective and I reckon that the book is well worth your time.

Thanks. It is a good use for a hallway and it is the first thing that people see when they step into this house (it is a small house after all).

That is interesting. So do you sometimes have summers where the lack of rainfall causes the trees and herbage to die back a bit? January through to about mid-March is the time of the year when the green leaves get replaced by yellow ones.

Snails are quite tasty aren't they. Not scary at all. Winkles are common all the world around. Is sewage treated before it is released into the ocean. You have to admit that dumping sewage in the ocean (and it gets treated down under to a greater or lesser extent depending on where you live) seems a little bit silly given that we also bring chemical and rock fertilisers back into agricultural areas? Seafood here is usually OK though.

I've seen Gordon Ramsay waxing lyrical about the eels. That species lives quite the intrepid life don't they? Jellied meats were big here when I was a child and they were OK but not very exciting. Smoked fish is a tasty treat.

Nice to hear about your grape experience and they sound very low stress from your description.

Yeah, I'm not much for competitive games either. Some people do have the killer instinct, but that is not us - otherwise we wouldn't live where we do. Mind you, I get pretty annoyed when people try and rip me off, but perhaps that is more of protective thing than a more shark like attitude which some people have.

Othello is a very enjoyable game. Sometimes the editor and I will play board games as they can be quite a lot of fun.

Have you ever thought about getting a food dehydrator instead of freezing your summer fruit? I've been wondering about those units as it would be a good use for all of the excess electrical energy over summer. Mind you, there are solar units too which don't require any power at all (maybe a fan to speed the process along). I'm still eating last summers bottled apricots as I preserved way to many of them.

Some of the fruit trees have started putting on a good show of blossom over the past few days. There was even 17mm (0.68 inch) of rainfall last night.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

That sounds about spot on. You know what? After this cold winter, I have a new respect for frost - I had a cavalier attitude about them before hand, but we live and learn. I'll bet you get some thumpers of frosts up your way? PS: The tea camellia is still alive and I've added a Babaco which is a tropical fruit to that area. Fingers crossed!

Yeah, they're really great and would probably do quite well up your way. Certainly frost and snow didn't seem to be a problem for them. They have other colours available here too.

You mentioned how the chickens swapped their diets around from one year to the next. It is weird isn't it? Who knows what it means, but I suspect that the chickens know their own business well enough. It is interesting that you feed banana skins to the chickens as I give them to the worms here.

If you catch your chickens eating the feathers on the ground of the enclosure that probably means they could use a bit of extra protein in their feed. Nell and Beau are onto a winner with that strategy! I wish them a warm spot near a heater during the long cold days of winter and a bit of extra padding can only assist with that!

I never posted a dog biscuit recipe, but I'll have to chuck one up on the blog over the next week or so.

What goes on in maths land, stays in maths land. Nuff said! ;-)!

What were you here? That is so true. Sometimes you just want to start a project, other times, you just want to finish it. You know if you skip over an important step, that sooner or later you'll have to come back and fix it... I've done a few of them. Actually the timber formwork for the steps is still in use as is the pole that I use to mark off the various heights of the steps. Annie Hawes wrote about messing that job up at her Cantina up in the hills of Italy and it would have annoyed her everytime she used those steps because your mind doesn't notice steps when they are evenly spaced.

That sounds like an excellent paint job and I would have appreciated that as did your customers. Small business is a tough school, I always say to people, if you want to make a big salary go and work for either the government or a big corporate - no one else seems to be paying much anywhere elsewhere these days.

Paint is usually locally manufactured so it seems to be OK. That is interesting what you were writing about the enamel paint, because down here, it is very glossy, but it slowly discolours and gloss white over time will turn slightly yellow-ish. I always buy the best paint that I can afford as I tried the el-cheapo stuff a few years back and regretted it. On one house many long years ago, the paint on the external walls lifted away from the weatherboards... Lesson learned.

I'm heading off to get a hamburger tonight. Yum beetroot!

PS: We managed to get a new Prime Minister this morning. Did you know that we physically lost a Prime Minister once back in the late 60's. Gone. Disappeared. A big mystery - although it was most likely a shark.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Sorry, forgot to add: Don't worry about the Prime Minister, we've got plenty more where they came from! Hehe! Just very wrong.



Coco said...

Oh, something I can contribute! Maybe not octopus, although they eat tons of that too, but squid in it´s own ink is popular here in Spain - Chiperones en su Tinta. They sell tiny packets of ink at the fishmongers. How you´d get the ink from the original animal, I don´t know. It will turn your teeth a bit black, but I like it. An easy recipe from Grandma´s recipes:

500 grams baby squid
2 large onions.
1 garlic clove
1 glass of dry white wine
2 packets squid ink
1 piece of stale bread.
Olive Oil and salt

Saute the chopped onion, with the sliced garlic and finely chopped tomato in a sauce pan with the oil. Cook until the onion is soft.
Chop the stale bread and add to the pot leaving for a few minutes until well incorporated.
Mix the ink into the white wine and add to the pot. Cook for a half hour. Then blend to achieve a creamy, smooth sauce.
Now clean the squids and add to the pot. Cook 15 to 20 minutes until the ¨Chiperones en su Tinta¨ are cooked. Salt to taste.

Lots of other recipes online. Tiny snails in a garlicky tomato sauce is also very popular in the interior.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Eels. There was an article in the newspaper, a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, we have eels in our rivers. Something I didn't know and have never seen. They're edible. Have never heard of anyone catching them to eat, here.

Oh, yeah. There used to be chess clubs all over the place. Most schools had them. Though it was thought to be a bit nerdy and outre to belong to one. But the kids who joined just didn't care. I think it's probably all done on-line, now.

Cancer in kids, or adults, seems to be pretty ... accepted, here. Lots in the movies, on tv. Seems like, in our newspaper, there's always some local fundraiser going on to help some poor kids family pay the medical bills. A couple of weeks ago, I watched Ken Burns' (Civil War, Jazz, Baseball, New York, The West, etc. etc.) documentary on cancer. One of his shorter ones. "Cancer: Emperor of All Maladies." Got the book and am dipping into it, here and there. Mmmm. Kind of an overview of the history of cancer and it's treatment. The show stopping statistic was that 1 in 3 men and 1 in 4 women will have some kind of cancer over the course of their lives. My mother died of liver cancer. Given my misspent youth, that's probably what will get me :-).

Glad your tea plant made it through your winter. Mine is in the kitchen window and looking really healthy. I'll plant it out next spring. It's gotten a bit ... leggy. I think I can get 3 or 4 starts off of it. I looked it up online, and taking cuttings looks pretty straight forward. I picked up some rooting hormone. And, perlite. Need to figure out how to build a little mini greenhouse. Now, what I'm wondering about is, it has quit a few flower buds ... for the last month and a half. But, they're not opening. they look very healthy .... just no action. Maybe a shot of worm juice?

I eat a banana a day, so, about half of the peels go to the chickens and half to the worms. Spread the wealth, around :-).

I think I came up with that saying about only once and there is an end when I was working at the library. Several times, we either moved from an old building, into temporary digs and back to a new building ... or, from old building to new. The saying came to me, and I used it to buck up my co-workers.

I knew you had mislaid a prime minister. :-) Bryson had a section on it in his book on Australia. And, your right. Always more where those come from :-).

It felt pretty cold last night. Woke up a couple of times. Even though I had two blankets on the bed. Not cold enough to get up and throw another one on. It was 45F (7.22C). At least at our weather reporting station, which is at the local airport. I started keeping track on the calendar to see if there's an average difference between there, and here. But, I don't know how accurate my porch thermometer, is. Came with the place. Lew

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hi Chris,
Thanks for visiting my blog! And for the good words.

This weekend I visited a couple in rural Illinois who have three solar systems to their house: solar hot water, solar electric (with a fine collection of batteries in the shed) and a solar panel with a blower that in winter pulls cold air in one side and pushes the resultant heated air into the house to help heat the place. They also have a rarely used wood stove and a heat pump. (It can get extremely cold in northern Illinois.) That and their large permaculture garden on a hillside all reminded me of you and your place. No chickens (or wallabies) though. Deer are the big thing and they just recently put in a fence so the does won't park the fawns there while they forage.


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Coco,

Thanks for your contribution and I'm pretty certain that you'll have something interesting to add to the discussion. I had not realised before this morning that you have the delightful blog: My Galician Garden. The ruins of the stone shed look amazing! And it will be good to hear how your hugelkultur experiment progresses too.

Thanks to for the recipe. I love how there is zero waste in that even the stale bread has a use. Puts me in mind of Tiramisu!

That's another vote for the snails too. Yum!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Your mission should you choose to accept it, is to... :-)! Sorry, back to being serious now. I wonder if anyone catches and eats the eels up your way? I'll be the native Indian population used to trap them and eat them. The eel traps are surprisingly easy to make and all you have to do is plonk them in the river at the right time of year and hope for the best.

You've got me wondering now whether there are any eels down in this part of the world?

Wouldn't you know it? They're actually here and I mean that locally... Go figure that one out: Short-finned eel. They're very clever in that they can "if necessary, leaving the water and travelling short distances over moist ground. They are well fitted to this task, being able to absorb 50% of the oxygen they need through the skin". There are a few very large dams around these parts so it would be interesting indeed to see if any are in there - they definitely have yabbies (which are awesome tasting small crayfish like creatures - did I mention that they are very tasty?)

Probably is done online now - or in organised play dates - given the cynic that I am are probably set up so that the parents get social contact rather than the kids. When I was young, the last thing I wanted tagging along when I was hanging out with mates, were the parents. Just sayin...

Well you don't appear to be dead yet, despite your misspent youth - which is a good thing! Hehe! Honestly, I feel for people who get lung cancer despite never having smoked because they get tarred and feathered with the same brush which is a double whammy. Some books are like that and it is hard to commit to reading it end to end. I put down the book Tracks recently which was about the lady who crossed the central desert on a camel because it was just a bit too angsty for my tastes. So, I hear you man.

Of course, cuttings what a good idea. Camellia's also set seed down here when the conditions are good. Big seeds, very hard to miss. That happens here too with the flower buds, they stay very small and round and only occasionally open to the sun. It probably means that we're both well out of the plants normal range... Did you end up trying the leaves in a cuppa? Were they any good?

Cherokee Organics said...


Out of curiosity, do you cut up the banana peels before giving them to the chooks - the worms don't seem to be fussy about such matters.

Moving a library would be a nightmare of a job. Ouch! A good opportunity for a stock take though - do these cards (or more likely a computer database) represent reality? A scary question to be sure.

Yeah, well he did tell the tale in an amusing way as it was a weird tale. The other tale he told was about one ex-Prime Minister who was selling his book of memoirs at or near the Prahan Market in Melbourne. The funny thing was that my grandmother used to take me there as a young kid, so I probably walked past the guy and went: Who's that? It is a dangerous thing to let politicians over inflate their egos and getting them to run a market stall is an ideal reality check. Imagine Dubbya running a market stall, it would be like a scene out of the very wrong comedy film: Harold and Kumar escape from Guantanamo Bay. Just sayin...

Ha! We're running at about the same weather, but you're handing over the warmer weather batton. A three blanket night is a very cold night indeed.

Had to rush the reply yesterday as I caught the late country train into town to pick up the editor who was on a girly night with her friends. It was a nice night last night in Melbourne and I walked around for over an hour, enjoyed a coffee and there was that date with the hamburger and beetroot (called the Mighty Melbourne incidentally) with chips, sea salt and rosemary. Total 100% pure Yum! There is so much life in the city now with a whole lot of hole in the wall type places to eat and they're all full of people - and the smells of cooking food of so many different varieties. Sometimes, I don't recognise the city anymore and yet recognise it at the same time.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Adrian,

Thank you, I enjoy your thoughtful blog too: Ecological gardening. The photos of the coneflowers in such a diverse garden are truly lovely.

Incidentally, Chicago got a raw deal in the Retrotopia story!

Thanks! They sound like they have a well thought out set up. Wow, I didn't know that does would do that? I'll bet the fawns thought that they were in some sort of supermarket for deer! Sometimes you have to fence some crops until it gets thoroughly established. The fruit trees need about 5 years of growth before they can handle the pruning efforts of the local marsupials.

Cheers and may their winter be mild.


Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris!

Gorgeous echium - what a neat spiral growth habit they have, too.

I am so happy that spring is really there. Quite the interesting winter you've had. I had forgotten how much your electricity output would improve with the changing season. And for some reason I had thought that you were cooking the dog biscuits in a wood-fired oven and, accordingly, felt a great deal of sympathy over your (near) constant endeavors to keep the pack (esp. Poopy) fed. I still do! 140 dog biscuits is a herculean task in itself. Good job! Good Poopy!

I am so impressed every time I see all the citrus that grows there. Still, no excuse here as we could have stayed in Texas and moved further south and grown our own. I do love snow, though . . .

Can wallabies not climb (not including Fatso in this)? The possums and raccons and squirrels climb right over our 8 foot fence (about 2.4 meters). A couple of our dogs even used to climb /jump over the 4 ft. fence. Electricity was added on top - ouch for the humans; never saw/heard a dog touch it.

Your bee apartment house just gets better and better. Lucky bees! What color paint have the bees chosen?


Pam in Virginia said...


May I comment about a comment in last week's comments? I often get behind with my reading and commenting . . .

Re: dehydrators. We have had one for many, many years. Cost $15-$20. We dry apples, pears, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, cayenne peppers, and used to dry venison jerky when there was more deer hunting around here. For the small amount of electricity that it uses, it has been a fantastic investment. Of course, the bigger the pieces of something and the more moisture in it, the longer it takes. Some things take 12 hours, some 2. When the weather is cool, we run it indoors, when it's hot, we run it on the back porch.


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - I think I'll skip the eels. :-). Unless things do fall apart and I'm out foraging ... We have a shelled snail, here, but I don't know if it's edible. I've only seen two, since coming here. Well, three, kind of. I saw a tiny little shelled snail, down in the chook run. Was going to move it to a safer spot and before I could turn around, the chickens scarfed it up! When I let them out in the morning they run around, madly, looking for anything that turned up in the night. There was a restaurant in LA that imported some French snails. Some got loose. They've established a small beach head in that neighborhood.

That ground walking eel is probably some distant relative, of ours. Grandma! :-).

Compared to my childhood, or, even yours, I think some kids today have a rather grim time of it. Seems like there's always stories of too much supervision, or, not enough. Teenage boyfriends stashed in teenage girl's closets for months. Things like that.

Yes, I gave the leaves that had fallen off the plant, during shipping, a whirl. Well washed and lightly dried in the oven. Crumbled up and put in a tea ball. Very hot water in a well warmed cup. A good steep time. A bit on the astringent side, which I like, with a decided green tea flavor. I wouldn't turn my nose up at the more mature leaves, at all.

Yes, I cut up the banana peels for the chickens .. and put the tough ends in the worm bag. Put some tomatoes that were going over, out for them yesterday. They vanished :-). Also gave some of the green grapes I got from Chef John's. Boy, they liked them!

Library moves aren't too bad. They're planned out like a military campaign. LOL. One day, moving the Chehalis library from it's temporary digs, back into it's new building, they rounded up a bunch of grade schoolers, blocked off the street and formed a bucket (book) brigade. Libraries changed a lot between the time I worked in them in the mid 70s ... and when I went back in the late 90s. And, now always for the better :-(. Every branch generates a list of things requested in other branches, two or three times a day. They go out, pull the books and send them on their way. That's when we find out if something has strayed or is missing. If it can't be ferreted out, it's status is changed from available, to missing.

For a heavy library user, like me, the 25 title limit on holds can be a bit cramping, at times. Stuff goes on my hold list that is "on order." Up to the publisher as to how soon it will get to us. If there are less than 12 holds, the item may take 2 or 3 months to wind it's way through processing. More than 12 holds and it is rushed through. I filled in, in the processing department a couple of times. Sigh. Rather a lazy bunch.

Here's a picture of the Chehalis library. I'm responsible for the general "look." :-). Though, the licensed librarians won't admit it. It's a rather bad picture. There's some distortion. Maybe I can find a better one.

Saw a deer in the front yard, this morning. Had a beautiful grey/brown coat. Hunter's have started showing up at the door asking to hunt the land. Well, no. At least they ask. Off to the Little Smoke. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Ahhh. Here's some better pictures. But, I also notice there's pics of Centralia, Lacy and Yelm mixed in. Lew;_ylt=AwrSbgjlmflVw3MAnrRXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE0bDZ0ZnEzBGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjA5MzVfMQRzZWMDcGl2cw--?p=chehalis+timberland+regional+library&fr=sfp&fr2=piv-web

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I am fascinated by the concept of sachets of squid ink, I bet that one can't get those here.

I think that eels are delicious just boiled, though smoked is better. I used to get neighbours, who had been fishing, to bring them to me instead of throwing them back in the sea. It is a long time since I have had any though.

@Chris and Lew

What is so wrong with handkerchiefs? Admittedly one needs large ones not just fancy little laced edged things. The day may come when there are no available tissues and a whole family has streaming colds. Once they have used up their linen, they will wonder how one cleans the yucky things (no washing machines by then). They will be very lucky if there is anyone around still who can tell them.

Rain has been coming down in sheets all day.


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

They are great plants aren't they. There are quite a few different types Echium plants, some of which only survive for a year, but these ones here have been growing for many years now. The flowers are also available in a few different colours too, which I'm keeping an eye out for.

Yeah, this winter has been way colder than any other that I can recall for many long years. Before this winter I would have safely described this farm as a frost free zone, but no longer... The frosts look like they've killed off the entire nursery bed of young Blackwood Acacia trees which sets me back another year (they produce seed in January next year - hopefully).

How was your past summer?

Well the sun is much higher in the sky now and you can feel the difference that it makes on your skin, let alone the solar panels and the solar hot water.

Ah, of course. There are 3 ovens here: Wood; Electric; and Gas. Gas is the choice of last resort. Over winter, with the wood heater going, energy is free for the taking so I cook everything I can in the wood oven. Over summer, I use the electricity as it gets wasted if I don't. I'm considering getting a much bigger electric oven but it will have to wait until funds improve. Muesli is cooking in the wood oven right now as I type this.

Poopy isn't feeling that well today as he ate some wombat scats last night and is paying for it dearly today. 140 was a massive batch of biscuits - usually I make about 100 in one go.

With the exception of rhubarb - which grows all year around here and self seeds too - the citrus is the only winter fruit. I would have probably moved north from Texas too as parts of it are having a dreadful drought (has it broken yet?). There are about 20 different varieties of citrus here. It is interesting because the old timers reckon that you couldn't grow citrus here at all. If you only ever get light dustings of snow and the occasional heavy frost, citrus and even avocadoes will probably be OK? Dunno, it is always worth trialling as you never know. The hardiest citrus here for winter is: Lemon Meyer; Pomello (which is a thick skinned grapefruit); and Australian Round Lime (which isn't really a lime at all).

Wallabies can't climb, but can they jump or what? A large forest kangaroo can easily jump over a 6 foot fence - no problems. Wallabies can go under fences too... Wombats can go through fences... Raccoons and squirells sound like a nightmare - fortunately the owls clean up any possum stupid enough to turn up here - and they do regularly but not for long. The nighttime shrieks are blood curdling!

The bees reckon semi gloss white is the colour of choice! ;-)! Who are we to argue with them? I do hope they like their news digs and I'll post photos on how it is going over the next few months. I should do an update on the chooktopia project as the chickens new digs has had some undocumented features...

Of course! It is all good.

Thanks for that update on food dehyrdrators and they sound like an excellent option. A guy I've been speaking with from up north here for many years reckons that the old school dehydrators perform really well and much better than the newer plastic models. I'll have to look into that, but certainly there is plenty of electricity to run the thing 12 hours - as you say.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

As they say, it is only the first eel that would be difficult to eat - especially if they're very tasty. I think you may have to keep them in a cage for a day or two in running water to get rid of the mud in their systems prior to consuming them - but I'm no expert in such matters and have never tried that (not having running water nearby).

Sorry to hear about the snail - you know I read somewhere a long time ago and I may be wrong on this, but those French snails are actually our local snails imported into France (6 degrees of separation!). Are they causing much harm? They're probably almost impossible to eliminate now. Slugs and snails don't get a chance here as virtually every bird about the place (maybe not the honey eaters) will eat them on sight. They live protected lives in the worm farm, but seeking greener pastures; they descend onto the garden and are simply eaten.

I noticed yesterday a funny thing in that I spotted a cicada on the woven steel mesh of chooktopia and thought I might move you to a safer spot. I went away for a bit and exactly like your snail something ate it. It may have been a bat or an owl as the chickens had just gone to bed and the night was closing in.

Yeah probably! It is a clever adaption to the rivers and creeks here which can turn into disconnected pools during a dry summer. Unfortunately, we set about ensuring that those same rivers and creeks run - and then we wonder why they go completely dry over summer...

It is that middle ground thing again that people seem to want to avoid. I would have gone mental if my mother had been hanging around when I was with my mates as a kid. I reckon a lot of people become unable to judge risk if they are over supervised... What do you reckon? I assume from your descriptions of combing through derelict towns and structures that you had a sort of freedom within some constraints as well?

Thanks for the update on the tea leaves. Mine seems to have started growing and putting on some new leaves so I'll let it get bigger before picking leaves and then I'll swap notes with you.

Haha! What a great mental image of the bucket (book) brigade - I know exactly what you mean too. Great stuff. Nice to hear that they are on top of their inventory which isn't an easy thing to do at all.

Fair enough, you know them better than I. Still your library system is an admirable thing. What a great looking and imposing building too. It has a sort of court house - substantial - feel to the architecture. Also out of interest, the building itself looks quite high off the ground and I was wondering whether there was a basement in it?

Well at least they are polite enough to ask. I get that here too, plus horse riders too. You know, in all my years here and interactions with a wide variety of people, not one single person (with the exception of Jessie - I haven't forgotten, you know) has thought to offer some sort of incentive to me for access to what is not theirs and so I'm always left with the deep impression that they would disrespect the opportunity. It isn't a good look.

PS: I have today hung up my fiction hat as I just don't have time to get the 1 million rubbish words out of my system before anything good shows up. A man has to know his limits.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Oh yeah, who would have thought of packaging up squid ink for resale? It is a bit of an eerie concept isn't it? Have you considered ordering some in at the local general store? Hopefully they don't consider such things to be too quirky a request?

As an interesting note, sometimes what you end up with in a package is not actually what you think that it might be. For example, down here wasabi sauce which is readily available in small packets is actually green coloured horseradish (that stuff grows like a weed here!). Actual wasabi is a whole different plant - I have the right climate for it, but not enough water so I don't know whether it is worth the effort?

I have eaten eel too and it is really tasty, but it has been many long years since I've seen it anywhere else down here for sale. Most farmed eel here is exported to the Asian markets where it commands a high price. That is an excellent arrangement with your neighbours, but sorry to hear that it hasn't been maintained over the years. People come and go, don't they and changes are not always for the better? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. One of the reasons I left the inner city was because it became gentrified and the people that replaced the old timers were all about their rights at no expense to themselves and don't put your washing out the front of the house as it may impact our property prices. It annoyed me no end to see such a great change in culture in my lifetime was disheartening because it wasn't always that way.

Haha! No worries, there is nothing at all wrong with handkerchiefs and they are very handy. No, the thing I was objecting to was that they were given to me as a birthday and/or Christmas present. They got used for sure. Mind you, the people responsible for giving me those presents were wise enough not to give me a laced edged handkerchief because if the local toughs had spotted that on me, I would have beaten up on the spot in no short order - it is not as if they didn't require much in the way of provocation. Even I know that would have been a bad idea and simply and quietly ditched them.

I've never washed clothes in warm water and have never owned an electric drier - although from time to time I've lived in places that did have them - or had to use the laundromat shop. Washing by hand would be a cinch here, but other people would definitely be at a loss.

Actually, I have been wondering about the process of manufacturing linen from scratch lately. Have you ever been involved in that process?



Pam in Virginia said...


Summer was actually very pleasant here this year. Temperatures were in the acceptable range, rainfall was about what I would want it to be. All in all, I'd say it was a good year. The only real problem (the extra one; there are always problems) was an unusual amount of viral disease, which I think was probably bad gardenkeeping habits on my part. That is, not keeping diseased foliage cleaned up, and planting too close together for the amount of humidity here. Also, fruit flies (something relatively new bought in with store-bought fruit). I shall do better next year!

Serves you right, Poopy! Our dogs dearly loved to eat deer, cow, and horse poop, also to roll in it to impress the other dogs. One had to be sure to give them a good sniff before opening the door to let them in. Sometimes one slipped by and headed straight for the couch. They also loved to eat cicadas. I didn't know that they had them where you are. Are they really noisy? The ones here are.

It appears the Texas drought is hugely improved. Most of the state is pretty much a desert (except for a swath in the east) so it's always water-deficient.

I forgot to mention that in our dehydrator we also dry the greens that are over-abundant - kale, mustard greens, collard greens. Whenever I make soup, I throw in a handful of the dried ones (put them in the dogs' recipes, too). Lots of vitamins there. I never dehydrate my herbs; afraid I'll lose too many of the volatile oils. I let them air-dry.


orchidwallis said...

Hello again

No, I have never made linen from scratch or known anyone who did.

I was out to lunch today with a friend and I mentioned handkerchiefs. She said 'But they were always given as presents!'. So how right you were. In days of yore, used ones were placed in a bucket of salt water. When there were enough of them, they were drained and then boiled in a pan on top of the cooker with detergent, soap or something; so they were sterilised.

Summers which are so dry that herbiage dies back, probably only occur about every 15 years. I wish that there were more of them.

Food dehydrators: I had never heard of such a thing before, don't even know if they exist here.

Doubt that asking about the possibility of sachets of ink would work here. One might get somewhere if one was in London.


LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Inge - Nothing wrong with a good solid handkerchief. :-). Any disparagement was aimed at the frilly things that would blow away in a stiff breeze :-). Mostly for show, I think. Also a display of talent and craft. I also think that in the grim times ahead, a bit of kind of useless, but pretty, here and there, will be welcome. Cotton handkerchiefs are ok, but don't hold up over a long run. I use a couple of old repurposed linen napkins. Now THEY last.

Yo, Chris - Continuing the linen theme, I think in one of Hawe's books she talked about linen manufacturing in the "old" days. I think it was on their trip south. Lots of heavy duty flailing and washing in streams to separate the fibers.

You may want to look into how citrus can ride out a frost. There are smudge pots. And, there's some method of spraying the trees with mist, getting it to freeze, to protect the trees. Sounds counter intuitive, but I've seen references to it, here and there.

Snails sound like real world traveling globe trotters. Haven't heard of any excessive damage, due to the LA snails. But, it's early days, yet.

About the only constraint I can remember from being a kid was "Be home by dinner." :-). Then again, I might have been a bit closed mouthed about how far we ranged. On the other hand, at 10 and 11 I was permitted to ride the bus into downtown Portland and spend the day kicking around the main library and art museum. Maybe up to the zoo and Museum of Science and Industry. Usually with a cousin or two who were the same age (and younger) who bussed in from other parts of the city. We'd rendezvous at the Edgar Allan Poe bench, in front of the main library.

The new Chehalis library replaced a nice old Carnegie library that was built in 1909. But, unfortunately, it had ridden out two major earthquakes and the last one, the Nisqually quake of 2001 was the kiss of death. It was still usable, but it's days were clearly numbered. Most of the money for the new library came from some Microsoft big wig, who happened to be born in Chehalis, and was a heavy library user as a kid. Ditto his mom, who was also a library user. It's named after her. She's still alive and quit lively in her 90s. LOL. We always had to answer the phones ... "Venetta Smith Chehalis Timberland Library." A mouthful, but a small price to pay for such a nice branch.

There is no basement. It's on a bit of a steep slope. There are springs in the hillside, that created problems in the old building. Parts of it always had a damp, musty smell. That was taken care of during the new construction. You can't see it, but around back is a drive through pick up and drop off widow. The first time Timberland had tried that, in any of it's branches. it's really caught on and gets a lot of use.

Yeah, I hung up my fiction spurs after the first contest. So much else to do. But, I do kind of have an idea that's been nagging at me that would be appropriate to the "Star's Reach" continuation. Hmmm. Winter is coming, with more down time.

Went to Chef John's, yesterday, and helped him harvest more of his tomatoes. They're playing out, but there are still enough green ones that they ought to continue on into the fall. Ditto, mine. I was mainly checking out the state of his nut trees. The chestnut still hasn't started dropping burrs. He has one black walnut that is a bit on the small side, yet. But, it has nuts. He was checking out one of the green walnuts and choose to ignore my warning that walnuts stain. :-). If his school decides to launch a production of Othello, he can try out :-). He has one filbert (hazel nut) tree that producing. I got a small sack. He had quit a few others that he has hacked back, as he says they grow like weeds. Walking around his place, there was quit a bit of damage to some trees, due to drought. Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

From our odd coincidence department. All the Timberland Libraries were closed, yesterday, for their yearly All Staff Training Day. Since I had a little extra time, I decided to hit the thrift stores. It's a tight month, money wise, but I wanted to check out the cookbooks. At one I found a small, paperback chestnut cookbook! 120 pages with a lot of nice black and white illustrations. $2. Tells you how to harvest the nuts, and all the different ways they can be processed. Plenty of recipes, too. Also found a nice Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) cookbook for $4.

I passed up a Franey and an Emeril cookbook. Off the top of my head, I steer clear of "celebrity" chefs. But, I had to rethink that a bit. Because I do have some James Beard and Julia Child. And, I've got my eye out for some Olney. I think what the difference is, Beard and Child have proven their staying power. You know they're not a "flash in the pan." :-). So, unless a newer cook comes highly recommended by someone I trust, I pass. I do have the Australian chef you mentioned on my "to get" list. :-). Lew

SLClaire said...

Hi Chris,

The daffodils are beautiful and made me think of spring, as I have plenty of them at my place (I should dig and divide some of them next month to get more flowers). But seeing citrus fruits along with them was odd - beautiful, but odd. I've seen citrus trees in full fruit in Florida, but they don't get enough cold weather there to satisfy the needs of the daffodil bulbs. Around here I have more than enough cold for daffodils and far too much for citrus.

Speaking of dehydrators, I am using my solar dehydrator for the first time all season. It wasn't sunny enough in June or parts of July and August. When it was sunny enough, I didn't think of using it or I didn't have enough food needing to be preserved. But I have way more jalapeno peppers than will fit in the freezer and wanted to try drying some snap beans. I'll talk about them in next week's post.

With autumn here and the first frost likely within the next several weeks, I am thinking about how to protect my tea camellias from the cold weather of our winters. I recently requested a couple books on the subject of growing tropical plants outside in temperate zones through inter-library loan, in the hope that I will learn something useful in that regard. My two plants have flower buds expanding and one flower has opened. It looks like a miniature version of the camellia flowers I have seen in the Linnean House at the MO Botanical Garden (the Linnean House is one of the oldest greenhouses west of the Mississippi River). I haven't tried making tea yet as I wanted my plants to get well established before I risked removing any of their leaves. Maybe next year.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Lovely to read of your good summer conditions. That sounds almost perfect. Problems are the life of a gardener and you sound as if you have given the matter some thought. As a suggestion a bit of extra feeding might help with plants that copped a bit of viral disease? But then thinning will provide that too as there is less competition in the garden. Fruit flies! Ouch! I think the larvae live in the soil over winter?

Yeah, no sympathy for Poopy as it is all self inflicted. He scored a hair cut today in preparation for the warmer weather. Oh yeah, that's not good at all and of course, rugs, carpets and clothes are all fair game too. The cicadas are very loud over summer, but they need much warmer conditions than at this time of year.

Nice to hear that the drought in Texas has improved (or gone back to normal conditions). Deserts are a tough school, but if you have water, the growing conditions can be quite good.

What a great idea, I never would have thought about that. Nice one. I assume you simply tie the herbs up and leave them to air dry?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Fair enough - Lewis raised the issue below in a book that we have both read. The people involved in the process certainly weren't positive about the experience - it read as if it was some sort of curse!

Hehe! Hope you had a lovely lunch too. Those are excellent suggestions for cleaning handkerchiefs without bringing out the heavy duty cleaners that people tend to use nowadays. Many of easily available cleaners are graded - hospital strength (I wouldn't think of buying them) - and sometimes I wonder whether we are in some giant experiment selecting for the very toughest bacteria by our day to day thoughtless actions?

Wow. I had no idea that you suffered those sorts of summers - although you did mention that you enjoyed them. That is usually every summer down here. I'll bet you get a much longer growing season on those years?

Fair enough - they would have thought that I'd completely lost my marbles if I asked for them to order that in at the local general store. I'll bet you can order it online as it seems like a specialist sort of supply. That is one good thing about the Internet in that you can order specialist materials and what not online.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Exactly, that is where I got that perception from - Annie Hawes book of her travels to the south of Italy. It didn't sound good. Interestingly though, I didn't realise that linen was a much tougher material than cotton based materials.

Thanks. The citrus does OK in the light frosts here. I'm not sure how they'd go in a big freeze though - probably not good. In the orchards to the west of here which are planted in a drained marsh which is in a sort of a bowl - they have giant fans to keep the cold air moving on those nights. That sounds similar to what you were suggesting.

So many insects are! I've got Portugese millipedes up here and they seem to be all over the place, but still they assist with breaking down timber and thus building soil quicker than before and I reckon that is OK. Fallen timber can stay on the ground here for decades.

Thanks for your story and that sounds like a lot of fun. Back by dinner was about it for me too. Although once I did make the error of letting my mother know where I was actually going when it was easier just to go to the city!

Absolutely, I'd answer the phone that way too for the excellent facilities that you get to enjoy (a small price to pay really). I didn't realise that the building wasn't that old. It is quite an imposing traditional looking structure. Down here they tend to build libraries as if they were some sort of post modern art project (or brutalist Soviet concrete architecture ;-)!)

Oh. I'm not sure that it is entirely wise to construct a building with springs out back. The foundations for that sort of structure would be a nightmare and fortunately, they didn't construct a basement or otherwise the damp proofing would be an even bigger nightmare... Thus the musty smell! What drive through library service? Cool. Wow!

Yeah, as you say so much else to do. Did you ever post a link to your story, I'd be happy to check it out? Fiction writing is like music in that she is a harsh mistress that demands much attention - and I (and you as well) am spurned by her as it is not possible to supply that attention! She seems to be the jealous type! ;-)!

Chef Johns place sounds really good. Glad to hear that he is scoring an excellent harvest and your tomatoes are running at about the same time in the season as would happen here - they require a lot of heat. I've got the seeds started over the past few days, but no seedlings yet. Yes, beware the stains! Very amusing!

Have you had a chance to poke through the chestnut cookbook (a great find by the way!) and I didn't realise that the Amish were of Dutch descent - but we have no equivalent at all down here of such a people. Shame really. Celebrity Chefs have to earn their stripes in the real world of commercial kitchens - television is a bit sanitised and unpressured compared to that.

Like the flash in the pan bit of humour too! Very good! Hehe!

Stephanie Alexander is well worth the time - her book is massive, approachable and comprehensive, plus she has a high end commercial background.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

Thank you. The daffodils are really nice - there is a local bulb farm that sells all sorts of bulbs and they produce so many. Because of the huge diversity of bulbs they flower for months too. Unfortunately they have to be mowed flat by mid to late October because of the fire risk.

Citrus are great trees, real givers during the time of year when you need fresh fruit the most. As you say though, your winters would be a bit too harsh for them. The old timers in Europe used to wheel them in and out of greenhouses during the winter - but that does seem like a lot of hard work.

Excellent work and I look forward to reading about your solar drying experience - and how the peppers turn out too.

Ah yeah of course. What they do down here - and it doesn't look that good, but it does work is to cover the plants with a well anchored down and supported hessian bag before the cold hits. Like I'm talking coffee bean bag thick hessian. It is good stuff and will break down over time into soil. If you get any great tips out of the book and I'm sure you will, I'd be very interested to hear of them. Yeah, I'm a bit nervous of extracting too many leaves too! If the book is good, can you please post a link to it?

Thanks and Cheers


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Yeah, the Chehalis Library isn't that old. 4 or 5 years? Here's the story. When the possibility of a new library was being kicked around, I worked in that branch, fairly frequently. I told the building head that I imagined a little building with columns ... like a little Greek temple perched on the hillside. She poo-pooed the idea. So, every time I worked in that branch, and had a few moments down time, I'd find pictures on the internet of little Greek and Roman temples ... print them off and leave them on her desk. :-). Probably 40 or 50 over time. Any time the design of the building came up, I was met with thundering silence. Well ... when the architect's drawings were finalized, there it was! But, any time the building design topic came up, and I pointed out that it was my idea, all I'd get was a tight little smile.

She recently retired and I was invited to the party. Said I wouldn't go, unless she gave me credit for the idea. In public. One of the other librarians later told me, that in a very private aside, she did admit that it was my idea. Not good enough! :-). That kind of thing happened over and over when I worked at the library. I'd have a banging idea ... it would be put down .... 6 months later some licensed librarian (who was usually within earshot when I came up with the banging idea) would implement it, and get all the credit. Oh, well. Water under the bridge. Such is the way of the world.

Well, on taking a closer look at the chestnut book, much to my surprise, it was published in Onalaska, which is about 8 miles from here. The authors stated that they had just brought in their first commercial chestnut harvest. This is 1995. Now, I haven't heard of any local chestnut operation, but I should look into it. For a small book, it's got a lot of recipes for everything from chestnut stuffing to Italian chestnut ice cream.

Last week, I saw a sign on my way to town ... "Sale - Books", not far from where I live. I resisted going to town, but the truck just turned itself down the road,all by itself! Glad I went. garage full of books ... hardbacks $1, paperbacks .50. Picked up 6 or so cookbooks for less than $5. One is a huge doorstop of a book (800+ pages) "La Cuisine; Secrets of Modern French Cooking" by Raymond Oliver. 1969. Noticed there's 10 or 15 chestnut recipes.

In England, a lot of those huge Victorian country houses had manure pits, or, coal fired heaters to grow citrus. The Lord of the Manor would ship off the first pineapple of the year, to grace the Queen's breakfast table :-).

The Pennsylvania "Dutch" are actually of, mostly, German and Swiss descent. One of those linguistic mistakes. They spoke "Deutch" ... German. Were called Pennsylvania Deutch, early on, which, over the years became Pennsylvania Dutch. You do have some ... Amish Light :-) communities in Australia. No Old Order Amish. As here, mostly Mennonites. I did a quick search for "anabaptist communities in Australia." Didn't read any of the articles, but Barossa Valley and Tasmania, were mentioned.

Worked with a mother/daughter Mennonite team in our Elma branch library. They were a lot of fun and great to work with. There is a Mennonite church not far from Centralia. When I used to drive out that way, regularly, I'd stop by a road side stand that had baked goods. Oh, my gosh! Heaven. You had to get there early, as they were usually cleaned out by 11am.

One night, I was standing in the Safeway line and suddenly realized a young man in front of me was some kind of Amish. The traditional flat black hat, chin beard but no mustache. Well tailored handmade clothes ... no buttons. Just fasteners. I don't know where he blew in from, or what his mission was. Didn't see a buggy parked out front :-). Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - I usually don't post links to "funny stuff" (dancing cats!) but, since we touched on writing, this seems topical. It's a little cartoon called "The Worst Muse."

Just to legitimize this short post, I also read an article over at Time Magazine called "21 Pieces of Writing Advice from Stephen King." Lew

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I realise that I never answered your query re. sewage going into the sea. In theory it should all be treated first. Regrettably theory and practice are not the same thing. If there is heavy rainfall/flooding the main sewage plants say that they have to disgorge untreated sewage. There are lesser outfalls from mis-managed septic tanks also. We often see official notices going up, telling us that it is illegal to take shellfish at the time, due to contamination.


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

That is certainly regrettable indeed. Thanks for the explanation as I was wondering about that issue. The creek at the bottom of this property is really quite pretty and has humungous trees of all sorts of species and is completely covered in ferns again of all sorts of varieties. Over summer it is a beautiful and shady spot and often much cooler than the surrounding more open but still tall forest. It is a long, long way from the house though!

That creek runs into a couple of very large man-made lakes on private property. From those lakes, the creek then overflows into the Macedon River / Riddells Creek. Why that waterway has two names is beyond my understanding, but it does - acceptance is a good thing. ;-)! Further along the way that waterway connects into Jacksons Creek which has the Gisborne sewage treatment comprising a few aerated and settling ponds on one of the river flats adjoining the river. You can see them from the freeway. When we get one of those heavy rains - which happens every year, the settling ponds would simply overflow into the creek. That creek then flows into the Maribyrnong River, which flows into the Yarra River and the whole lot ends up in Port Phillip Bay.

There is something to be said about composting manure and using urine as a fertiliser on the land, but people get really funny about it. Beats me as the alternatives whilst they are elsewhere aren’t always a good option.

It is nice that they monitor those issues up your way and let you know.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Mate, reading that story, I feel for you. It is not good. I'd be hurt by that action too.

I read your story this morning and was out working in the forest all day long clearing up for the summer and collecting a further 99 pickets (still 21 short though...) and had all day to think about a response, because your story raises many philosophical and ethical issues.

Swinging the axe, wielding the chainsaw, pruning, burning, hauling and chopping and dropping stuff in a forest does wonders to clear the mind and focus the attention. It isn't far off meditation really, and sometimes I get my best and most original thoughts during those long hours when I'm alone in my own head just doing - it is very relaxing really even though it is very physically hard work. And today, I was contemplating your story and if you'll hopefully not be offended, I'll share some insights:

Other people have other agendas. It sounds obvious, but it can get lost in the static of day to day interactions. It is hard to look at other people, get to know them and wonder about their motivations. They may only have consideration for themselves or their own status, but then how do you also not know whether they have agendas that involve you. You may have even got them offside by some minor faux pas or misunderstanding and everyone handles those differently. But then, they may well be attempting to gain status off your hard work - by the way, those columns did look pretty good - from my perspective it gave the library a feeling of solidity and respectability like an old school 19th century courthouse.

Ideas grow from earlier ideas. Ideas are a funny beast because they're sort of like an unfolding process. Sometimes it is difficult to see a way forward and then some brave (or perhaps foolhardy! ;-)!) soul will get an idea that allows other ideas to unfold from that original concept and what was unclear before soon becomes a path for others to follow and go even further again. The columns in your case decided the design for the rest of the front facade of the building - all else was adapted around it as it was the key for the rest of the design. Incidentally some of the older Georgian style mansions down here dating back to the very early 19th century had solid portico's like the one at your library. If you are interested I'll track down some Internet images?

The ownership of an idea is more or less a legal concept. You got me wondering today about how are ideas actually owned and honestly I didn't get to the bottom of that issue. So I'll tell you a funny story instead: As you are well aware both you and I have been reading the ADR for a long, long time. ;-)! And over that time I certainly have dropped in a whole lot of fresh ideas into the discussion. Some of those ideas have even made it into books and I've certainly also heard one or two of them on a podcast. There was certainly no attribution in either case. Do I feel as if I owned those ideas? No, is the simple answer. But other people may feel very differently and react very differently again. I was just hoping to show that the concept of ownership of ideas was a very grey area, but don't think I made a very good job of it.

Now having said that if people are climbing on your back using your idea and pushing you down, then that's not good. Incidentally I take umbrage at the building head on your behalf as using other peoples ideas for career advancement is a very unsavoury behaviour.

Hope I haven't offended you with this feedback?

I have to bounce and do some apologising because I have recently acted thoughtlessly elsewhere! Contemplation of your own motivations is a wonderful thing.

Hopefully, I'll be able to respond to the rest of your excellent comment after that, but if I can't I promise to respond to you tomorrow evening.



orchidwallis said...

Hello again

We are only told when not to get shellfish because there are commercial fishermen doing it; I doubt that we would hear anything otherwise.

I do use urine as fertiliser but have always been told not to use human manure. Can you give me any info. on why this might be?


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - No offense, taken :-). If I were a better person, it would all just roll off my back. :-). Sometimes, when I'm out working around the place, or, say cooking, I can take joy and interest in what I'm doing and what's going on, around me. Other times, I fall into black ruminating (love that word.)

My daily meditation book has a little ... story? It comes around once a year. You can sit in a room that has many windows. You can just get up and look out the same window, at the same scene, over and over again. Or, you can go and look out a different window, for a different view. Sometimes, I can think about something in a different way ... or, not think about it at all. Sometimes, I can do something in a different way, from the way I've done things, before. Sigh. I'm still a work in progress, at this late date. :-)

I looked into the Stephanie Alexander cook books, on Amazon, last night. Yikes! If you have her "Cooks Companion" you might want to put it in the safety deposit box. $60-$70. Afraid it will have to go on my wish list, for when I'm more flush. I did order up a Penguin paperback of her "favorite recipes." She has published quit a few titles. Any favorites?

Here's the "solar in a box" I'm thinking about getting.

According to my neighbor, they're a pretty good company that's been around, for awhile. I think it's a good place for me to start ... to get my feet wet. But, I'll be interested to hear your thoughts. I suppose I can add batteries as i go along. Yeah, it's probably a pretty Mickey Mouse, hobbyists set up. Will probably order it in around January. Lew

Angus Wallace said...

Hi Chris,

Spring is a glorious time! Your garden is looking great. Your point about fruit trees' growth is really true. Our oldest fruit tree has only been in the ground 2 years, but the biggest is about 5 times the size of the smallest! Some are just very happy...

It's been a good time for solar indeed. Our HWS has been boiling in recent days (because it's low pressure, it boils at 100 C, unlike pressurised ones which often boil at closer to 150 C, depending on the pressure). So we've got plenty of hot water now. Of course, we're also being careful with water, because we might not see a lot of rain until May! (slight exaggeration ;-)

Have started work on the secondary glazing and more wicking beds. Will try to write about it some time.

Saw your comment on my blog, thanks -- yeah mostly sorted now. :-)

Cheers, Angus

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

I do hope that you get a chance to check out that chestnut farm - they might do sales in mid to very late autumn (which is about now). Chestnuts would do very well in your part of the world as they would love the mild climate and reasonable rainfall - although they are very hardy to heat and drought once they've established a good root system. Don't be surprised if the orchard has since disappeared... There is nothing sadder than people ripping out well established fruit and nut trees. Did I tell you that I met a local a few years back that has a cherry farm and he was lamenting to me that his son was not interested in the place and would probably sell it off once they retire? They are the loveliest people and I look at all of their mature and very productive cherry trees and they also ran bees too and wonder what the future holds for them.

That sign would be like a magnet for me as well! ;-)! The French are lucky enough to have a broad spread of climates and fertile soils with which to grow a huge diversity of produce across a small area. Things are hardly a secret if they're printed in a book though! Hehe!

Exactly. The old timer hill stations high up in this mountain range have glass houses and I noted that in one or two they have very old school boilers to keep the tropical plants warm during the cold winters. Pineapples were a bit of thing for the English nobility, weren't they?

Thanks for that info. Well, you'd be surprised where those canny German and Swiss lobbed up here and setup shop. Not too far from here there is a farm called: Lavandula Farm - Daylesford. It was originally built by people of Swiss / Italian heritage and the stone buildings are exceptionally photogenic.

As an interesting side note - and there are always less than six degrees of separation - many years ago I used to visit that farm and they had the most amazing food. It was really good and the lavender scones and cream were to kill for. What I didn't realise at the time was that Stephanie Alexanders ex partner (I believe that they'd had some sort of serious falling out) Anne Smithers was the chef there. And yes, the book was the Cook's Companion which I picked up second hand for the bargain price of about $40. That book is a true door stop and it covers a truly stupendous variety of food - plus it is very accessible - which is not something that you often find in high end cook books. Anyway, one of my few regrets in life is not consuming more of those lavender scones - seriously, they were really good!

Ahh, interesting the Mennonites were of Swiss origin. Nice to hear some real world experience with them. Yeah, I'd probably elbow you out of the way if there was only one or two baked items left! Hehe! Still, having written that, I reckon you'd know, if there were only two bakery items left, exactly which one was the better one and possibly direct my attention through some subtle means to the lesser of the two bakery items! ;-)!

Well that was a lively twitter feed! Incidentally that is the first twitter feed that I have ever seen. The only thing that I can take from that lively link is that we are who we are.

No more fiction writing, please! ;-)! On the other hand Stephen King would have some outstanding and useful bits of advice, but then how do you know that you are not replicating his path. What is creativity anyway? Who can judge creativity? I remember reading somewhere that early on the Aboriginals could reproduce many of the learned songs of the early European settlers and those songs travelled the length of the country ahead of the movements of those Europeans and I've wondered about what that actually meant for them.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Of course, but then how do you know that commercial interests aren't putting their interests ahead of the locals? I have a naturally suspicious nature so feel free to discount my thoughts. A couple of decades ago I worked with some very experienced engineers that dealt with those processes and I wish that I had been more mature at the time so that I could have posed a few searching questions. They were only too happy to discuss the issues too. Life is full of wasted opportunities.

Well, if we step back from the pragmatic issues surrounding humanure, then I reckon the big picture tells me that there is a high degree of yuk factor involved in dealing with our own manures and also I suspect deep down people don't wish to be associated with the actions of other lifeforms. There is so much wildlife here that manure is all over the place and over the years I've become quite adept at working out: who's poo is that? Manure is just another fertiliser and with the human stuff it is just a matter of mixing enough carbon material (i.e. leaves, sticks, bark) into it - I believe on about a 4 (carbon) to 1 (manure) ratio and letting it compost for about 6 months and then you should be OK to use that as soil. I believe that all of the diverse life in the soil over that period of time kills off the harmful pathogens during that composting time. Just don't try the composting process near a waterway...

Honestly, the old timers used to simply bury our manures in cottage gardens, orchards etc. and just let nature sort it out. Adding the manures to waterways is a bad idea.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Well, thanks and you are in good company as we're both works in progress. Nothing is perfect and perfection is an overrated goal anyway. Axing timber is a very meditative and soothing process for me! Seeing the world from a different perspective takes a whole lot of work and energy, it is not as easy as it sounds.

Oh yeah, that book was a bargain find. No stress, if you have a library of good books, it is probably a bit superfluous. Speaking of which, I was always very partial to Gordon Ramsay's TV series Kitchen Nightmares - the UK version, not the US version. He'd spend a week in an ailing restaurant business and help them get back on track as a business. It was always interesting as he followed a similar process to what I had in the business world as he used what he found rather than swapping in heavy hitters. It was a fascinating show about people and understanding the basics of business. The US version was a tougher school as he had to have this sort of cultural out-alpha'ing the chef or business owner and it was harder for me to watch because so much time was wasted on that process before he got back to the basics. Interesting stuff.

I'll check out that solar kit. My first system here was a little cobbled together 80W unit and it is still going strong today 9 years on, so you never know.

I finished paid work tonight at about 9.30pm as I'm under the pump to get an important job done so will check the kit out over the next day or so.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Angus,

Yeah, you're enthusiasm is infectious and I feel it too, spring is awesome!

Thanks and yeah, you really never know with a fruit tree as it all depends on the root-stock and everyone acts as if it is some sort of a mystery - most are dwarf root-stocks though as people can get a bit frightened of a 20m lemon tree. I remember the lemon tree in my grandmothers back yard was so big you could easily climb that monster!

Hehe! Well done with the solar hot water - it is pumping here too. I don't know about the possibilities of the dry summer, yet. Have you noticed how those Indonesian volcanoes are making the sun set a really deep orange? I don't know, but all of those particles in the air refracting the light also cause a build up of clouds over the continent - so who knows? I do hope for a cooler summer. Hey, the tomato seedlings sprouted here over the past day or so.

Top work, all important stuff and I look forward to reading about it. I'd be very interested to hear about the wicking beds performance over summer. Just avoid tap water as you'll get a build up of salts in the soil - but then you can replace the soil every year or two, too, to get around that.

Man, I ache vicariously reading your blog. Ouch!



orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I have no illusions at all where commercial interests are concerned.

Manure: I was simply curious as to why humanure was supposed to be unhealthy. Thanks to the pigs, we are overwhelmed with manure.


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Don't know about the local, possible chestnut orchard. Chef John, who lives way closer to Onalaska, for the last 30 years, has never heard of it. We'll do some poking about and see what we discover. Yes, it's always sad when a nice farm plays out and is either sold out for development, or just goes to rack and ruin. An example of that right across my road. Sigh.

Back in the 16 and 1700s, pineapples (at least in England and America) were symbols of hospitality. They pop up in the oddest places ... carved on furniture or worked into architecture.

Ohhh. The Mennonite baked good were soooo good. Especially the donuts. They looked like rather puffy, plane old glazed donuts ... but, literally, melted in your mouth. I asked around about how this was achieved, and theories ran from lots of butter to, perhaps, lard. Something people don't cook with much, anymore. But I've spotted a couple of newish cookbooks, on various lists, that are re-exploring lard.

Have a copy of "The Huanure Handbook" (3d ed) on my bookshelf. Just in case ... :-). I've been told the old timers, when the privy, or outhouse pit filled up, would just move it, let it work for a couple of years, and then plant a fruit tree on it.

Creativity is a whole can of worms and reams of verbiage have been cranked out about it. Am currently dipping into a book called "Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior" by O'Connor (2014). Lots of new research on the unconscious mind .. the automatic self. Which really doesn't have much to say about creativity ... but that seems to be the area where a lot of creative stuff arises. A lot of advice I read about creativity advises that one should approach creative endeavors in a rather selfless manner. Not with the idea of monetary gain or the adulation of the crowd, but for the pure personal joy of the thing. Makes sense, but hard to pull off, sometimes :-).

Michael Pollan posed an interesting question in one of his books on food. Does "authentic" food remain authentic after it is "discovered" and gains widespread acclaim? I suppose the same question could be posed about art, or, any number of other things. Something to ruminate on :-) the next time I'm hoeing weeds.

Oh, no hurry on the solar. Isn't happening til at least January. In the meantime, I'll probably pick up a copy of "Solar for Dummies" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Solar." When it came to my chooks, that series kept me out of major trouble with my chooks. And, answered a lot of "dumb" questions I had.

I have a small solar flashlight. Sometimes I have problems with fleas (thank you Nell!) So, I strap it to a table leg and let it shine in a bowl of water, overnight. Very effective. But the point is, if it's sunny weather, I can do it every night. If it's cloudy, even though it sits all day long in the sunny, south facing kitchen window, to get it to shine strong and well into the wee small hours, I can only use it every other night. Limits. Lew