Monday, 21 December 2015

Bikram Ultimate Fighting Kanagroos


Every summer, the tall trees drop dry, dead and yellow leaves when the hot winds from the centre of this largely arid continent blow through their branches. And this happens every year. During those hot windy days it is hard to spend time outside as the sun is oppressive. On some summer nights that hot wind continues to blow and it feels as if the continent itself were exhaling all of that unwanted heat in one huge long breath directly over this forest.

This past year has been notable because following on from the coldest winter in 26 years, the months of October and December both produced record breaking heatwaves for this corner of the continent. An observant person may suggest that the weather extremes are becoming more extreme.
December heatwave temperatures as they happened
And with that heat come the bushfires. On Saturday afternoon, I could see from this eagles eyrie, a huge column of smoke which was the Scotsburn bush fire.
A huge column of smoke rises from the Scotsburn bush fire
So far, the Scotsburn fire has burned 4,600 hectares (11,500 acres). Observant readers may note in the next photo from only a few hours later just how far and fast that fire had moved across the landscape:
The Scotsburn fire had travelled a considerable distance in only a few hours
The heat and fires are hard on the wildlife as the forest is just hot and dry. I’ve noticed that as the heatwave wore on the usually placid Kangaroos were getting a bit ratty:

Fortunately, the kangaroos soon settled their differences and went back to eating.

It is not just the Kangaroos that are distressed by the extreme heat. On Sunday I spotted two koala bears roaming around the forest early in the morning. It is a remarkable thing to see one Koala bear in a month, let alone two in one morning. Clearly they had to leave the shade of their tall favourite trees to travel down to the creek for a drink of water. I found one of those Koala’s ambling across the road at their glacial Koala-like pace, so I gave the koala a bit of assistance crossing the dangerous (for them) road and motivated him to climb up into a very shady Cherry Ballart tree (which is a native fruit tree). A couple of hours later I went back to check on him and he was still happily asleep in the shade of that tree. He had moved on by the early evening.
I assisted a Koala bear to safely cross the road and climb into the dense shade of a Cherry Ballart tree Sunday morning
The bee hives are both kept in the afternoon shade which helps keep them cooler than if they were positioned in the full sun. It is interesting to note that placing hives in the full sun is often the advice given by bee books – but that advice is inappropriate in an area subject to this sort of extreme weather. Despite being in the shade, the air temperature was still over 40’C (104’F) and the bees were clinging to the outside of the hive enjoying a bit of fresh air.
Bees cling to the outside of their hive to enjoy a bit of fresh air during the recent heat wave
The other bee hive, which is the new experimental bee hive, has far less bees than the older better established hive, so they weren’t as stressed by the heat. But as you can see with Bee Cam ™ they were still very active on those hot days.
Bee Cam ™ shows just how active the new experimental bee hive was during the recent heat wave
Adaption to the weather is my motto and after a few days the heat becomes the “new normal”. Adaption doesn’t mean giving up my homemade bread loaves and so I simply placed the solar powered electric oven outside in the shade which works a treat! Hmmm, freshly baked bread without heating up the kitchen!
Baking bread outside in a solar powered electric oven is the way to enjoy freshly baked bread on obscenely hot days
Adaption also involves watering the tomatoes, vegetables and berries at night. I have very limited water supplies and watering at night allows the water to percolate into the soil without being lost to evaporation. Some of the younger fruit trees in the orchard that were struggling received the occasional half bucket of water, but most of the 300 fruit trees simply struggled through and some of the older and more advanced trees showed no signs of heat stress at all. In hot weather, the young nut trees struggle the most of all and a couple of hazelnut trees and one of the pecan nut trees died over the past week.
The author watering some of the plants during the hot evenings this week
Observant readers will note the two kangaroos in the background placidly munching away.

Some of the wildlife readily adapts to hot weather and I spotted this Southern Brown Tree frog who spends all day in the cool damp gully trap. The frog then leaves the gully trap in the evening to enjoy some choice insects from the garden, before returning to the gully trap again as the dawn sky starts to light up.
A Southern Brown Tree Frog emerges from the cool and damp gully trap for the house
I found another frog – who is clearly something more of a daredevil than the one above – living in the drain for the chickens water within the chicken enclosure. I only found the frog when I accidentally disturbed it and it began making a noise like a squeezed rubber duck toy. Fortunately the frog was whisked away to safety (by me) before the chickens could eat it! That frog leads a precarious lifestyle but benefits by also enjoying access to regular water when many of its friends in the forest don’t.

And speaking of precarious lifestyles, for the benefit of the readers of this blog I went outside into the scorching afternoon sun with the camera during the heatwave and took a few photos to show you how the garden responds.
The garden at mid-afternoon during the recent record breaking December heatwave
The garden at mid-afternoon during the recent record breaking December heatwave
The garden at late-afternoon during the recent record breaking December heatwave
One group of plants that I chose to water every evening for about 10 minutes (which is equivalent to about 170 litres or 44 gallons per day) was the tomatoes. If tomatoes get a bit of water they can shrug off the hottest of days and Tomato Cam™ shows that the plants had huge growth this week:
Tomato Cam™ shows that the plants had huge growth this week
This week’s heatwave gave me incentive to consider the plight of the chickens if a bushfire were to occur here. Despite the heat, I added a small gravity fed sprinkler which can sit on top of the chickens deep litter mulch and keep the area damp.
A Silky chicken investigates the new gravity fed sprinkler fitted to the chicken enclosure
The chickens are less than impressed with this sprinkler! I also constructed a steel swing for them to play with and they seem even less impressed by that. The swing can be adjusted, so over the next few months I’ll keep adjusting the height until the birds start to use their toy. Observant readers may also be able to spot a very hot looking Scritchy who wants to assist the chickens learn to use the swing.
The chickens look unimpressed with the modifications to their deep litter enclosure
Berries are still plentiful, although the strawberries have now gone on strike and have stopped producing. I’m unsure if this is due to the heatwave or it may be that the plants themselves which are in their third year have now stopped producing fruit? The future strawberry project which will hopefully be completed before next spring should have the strawberries grouped according to age.

Berries are still plentiful despite the heatwave
There are now so many black currant fruit that I have no idea what to do with them all. Fortunately, the editors wine making skills were brought into action and we have now produced Black Currant wine and it has the most beautiful and interesting colour:
The surplus of black currants was used to produce two demijohns worth of wine
Finally yesterday afternoon the cool change swept through and the editor and I sat out in the brief rainfall with cooling winds and enjoyed a coffee.
The cool change and brief rainfall swept through the farm yesterday afternoon
The temperature outside now at about 2.30pm is an enjoyable, overcast and very cool 18.8'C degrees Celsius (65.8’F). So far this year there has been 702.8mm (27.7 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total 698.2mm (27.5 inches).

76 comments:

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Oh no! What a disaster, still as you say where there is life there is hope. Haha! Too funny, we could go on like this for days! Maybe Poopy took it? :-)! It wouldn't surprise me one bit. Bone Wars continued this week and whilst Sir Scruffy was out this morning in the now cool air munching on the bone, Poopy took his breakfast and now looks very distended and uncomfortable. The lesson from all of this is that Poopy is totally sneaky and may have stolen all of our lost youth, and also that two breakfasts in one morning is a really bad idea...

That furry wolf spider is a bigger spider than the large spiders we get here - which are disturbingly common. They are called: Huntsman spiders and don't form webs but hunt for other spiders and insects. The bites are poisonous but not fatal and you end up with a large inflammation similar to that of bite and chemical spray from the bullants here. They can get to about 4 inches in size and are quite startling to come across on the bottom of your lettuce leaf - or in your clothes. I've innoculated the house with Daddy long leg spiders which are more poisonous than the huntsman, but are unable to bite humans and the smaller spiders battel it out. The huntsman spiders always seek shelter in the house when it is going to rain, so they are a good indicator of possible rain. On the plus side, the huntsman spider is good feed for the small birds, frogs, and skinks (which is a very common little reptile like a gecko) that lives in the garden beds.

I'm not sure I'd be entirely comfortable with the furry wolf spiders living in the house myself, but then we are taught from an early age - for good reason - that anything that can bite or sting is a bad thing. As an adult you have to de-program yourself and work out who's who in the zoo as not everything is going to kill you - although a lot will!

Speaking of which with all that talk of killer bears etc. I forgot to mention that the oceans here seem to be teeming with white pointer sharks and up north the river systems are chock full of huge man eating salt water crocodiles! 300 million years of existence on the planet unchanged means that those two creatures sorted their business out early on! :-)!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

Thanks for your feedback about the ticks and roosters to Pam.

As a side note of interest to you about roosters, I once had a very gentlemanly Rhode Island Red rooster who took his job seriously and never attacked myself or the other chickens, but was ever vigilant for predators and he used to point out choice scarps for the flock. But I had a Light Sussex rooster that used to kill some of my smaller hens and attack me and I was seriously over him and sorted him out in no short time - much to his surprise. One difficulty of having a flock with smaller hens and bantams is that the hens sort out their pecking order without too much fuss, but roosters can be very mean to the smaller hens.

As another side note, I don't treat my dogs for either ticks or fleas and I've noticed a funny thing about the dogs. Because they get to roll around in the grass and dust and dirt, they smell very neutral. When I come across many city dogs they can be a bit greasy and smell strongly of dog. Dunno about that one.

Exactly, the humidity makes the heat even worse than it actually is. Humid summers can turn your farm and forest into a jungle! The solar power system can actually power an air conditioner, but in the process it heats up the electrical equipment, which in turn shortens its lifespan. The same thing happens with the mains electrical grid too. I don't actually know the answer to that question, but don't wish to break the system finding out. Ceiling fans are the way to go here.

Enjoy your many Christmas celebrations. Go Salve, she and the kids would have totally enjoyed themselves!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Too funny - get this I thought Frizzle chickens are hard to explain, so I did a quick search on the internet to find a good photo and lo and behold there is Frizzy the now sadly passed Frizzle Isa Brown staring back at me through this screen thingee: Frizz the chook. Sadly for Frizz, Poopy killed her in an unfortunate accident when a visitor accidentally let the two worlds collide. The results are in and they're not good. Poopy was seriously punished for his vile crimes.

10 inches over a short period of time is a huge amount of rain in anyones language. No wonder things have been flooding up in your part of the world. That sort of rain destroys infrastructure in pretty quick time. I hear you about the maple tree as that happens here too. The tree dudes who cleaned up the powerlines around these parts left a whole lot of branches on the ground and if they don't come and clean them up, I'm probably going to have to.

Thanks for the explanation as I assumed that you meant the state, not the country... I have a reasonable head for geography, but somehow I missed that one. Ooops, sorry to the people in Georgia. I'll bet they have a fascinating history being on the border of Russia. Yeah, the Washington business would drive me nuts too. Around these parts they've got a Shannons Road and a Shannons Lane, now I can appreciate that Shannon or the Shannon family might have enjoyed a little lasting fame, but couldn't they have kept the two roads a bit further apart geographically? Hehe! Hey, speaking of which do you get people calling roads by different names, just because those are the names that they've been historically called. For example, there is a road around here known as the Shute - and it's official name is something else altogether. And you don't want to drive down that goats track. It has a sign that is a classic in understatement: "Dry weather road only". Good advice, ignore at your peril!

Haha! Yes, it can be surprising what gets lost in a move - or never gets unpacked again. Speaking of getting lost. That bone involved in Bone Wars has been sitting in the soil in the garden bed for a few days now, only to be unearthed this morning (or was it yesterday?). Dunno, anyway, the dogs have lovely bright shiny teeth, but their breath is like the smell from a zombie convention at a morgue where the power has been off for a few days. Just sayin... ;-)!

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

The old school roses have the most beautiful aromas don't they? I'm not so sure the new hybrids are as tough and fast growing as the older varieties either. The wallabies will do anything to eat a rose (thorns and all), so I have to grow them amongst decoy plants. The roses love the heat too.

People do have to dig deep to find gumption and identifying the (this is difficult to explain in words) determinism involved in their current plight. Not sure I've explained myself well, especially compared to your eloquent explanation. You know, I may have mentioned this to you before, I can't quite recall, but I spotted a person older than myself by about maybe 10 years, shoplifting from the local supermarket quite a while back. I was quite surprised really and so me being me, I got curious as to that persons circumstances and followed them discreetly out of the store only to find them getting into a humungous and expensive looking SUV. Mate, this near new SUV would have easily cost over $60k here and I was trying to work out whether it was financial necessity (a lot of these types of vehicles are on monthly finance nowadays so you can't really tell anymore about people from the outward trappings) or a mental health issue. And I still don't know - but I thought that it was interesting.

That is interesting, it can mean much either way. It may be that you have more efficient and diverse predators in your area now too. But certainly here the only place I notice slugs is around the worm farm and they're eaten so quickly by the birds, frogs and reptiles that it is not funny. You may have a very healthy and developing eco-system?

Top work. :-)! How did the cookies turn out? My brain is telling me hamburger tonight. On a serious note here, did you ever try the beetroot? Hehe!

Cheers

Chris

Damo said...

It looks like your tomatoes are about the same size as mine. I plan on staking them tomorrow as we are going away for a week. With a bit of luck they will still be here when we get back - something nice about living on the west coast of Tassie is that it rains a lot so your garden can survive some degree of benign neglect. Still, it will only take 2 or 3 days of sustained heat to knock them out so fingers crossed..

In more exciting news, Mrs Damo and I tried to get some crayfish and abalone. It was quite fun, although the water was a bit chilly, even with a wetsuit. The cray pot came up empty, but Mrs Damo did nab an decent abalone (our first) and fried it up in garlic and butter. It was delicious and I look forward to eating them again! For anyone interested, I posted a photo of the beach here: http://zeehanmanse.blogspot.com.au/2015/12/looking-for-abs-and-crays.html
It looks very nice, but most days it is grim, overcast and has a huge swell rolling in. A very dramatic and spectacular part of the world.

Also did some driving around the NW of Tasmania (Smithton - Stanley - Burnie) the other day. What a gorgeous area - rolling hills with red soil and quite a lot of farmland with bluewater ocean views (if not outright ocean frontage!). It would certainly be nice to buy a small patch of land in that area. Must continue to save my pennies and pray for a price correction :p (without losing my job in said correction).

We also saw Star Wars. In my view it was a solidly entertaining film with a few too callbacks to the original trilogy (and a couple of plot holes). 3.5 Stars.

Our broody chook does not respond to treatment and I have given up. Hopefully the voices in her head will stop soon and she can go back to being a normal hen!

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

Great photos and oh dear, more fruit for me to drool over.

Have just returned from last pre-Christmas shopping trip. It is very warm, wet and very, very windy. On my return I encountered the postman who had just finished reversing up to my postbox. He drove to the side so that I could continue to pick my way through the water, sludge and mud. He wound down his window to speak to this wet, windblown, old woman. I said 'Why don't I live somewhere sensible'. He replied 'Because you would have neighbours'. I agreed that I preferred this to neighbours. Well I do have neighbours but they are not to close and are out of sight.

I woke to a dawn chorus this morning so the birds think that it is Spring poor things.

Hmm, the young who have not experienced economic hardship: they probably think that they are experiencing it. The definitions of hardship and poverty have seriously changed. As I have said before, a hard childhood helps to set one up for any realities that hit later. What I very much dislike is the sense of entitlement that people have now and it is not restricted to the young.

Christmas trees: Mine is a fake one that has been on the go for many years. I do like the scent of a proper Norwegian Spruce but it is too difficult for me to deal with now. It doesn't go up until Christmas Eve and it has candles. All my life the family has had candles (shock, horror). The tree is never left alone while they are let. My mother was much less careful than I am about their placement and my sister and I were always putting candles out and had scissors to hand to cut off smouldering branches on her trees.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Happy Solstice, one and all! Well, we're over the hump and the days will finally start getting longer. Of course, we've talked about it before, but our coldest weather will come in January and February.

Kind of you to help the Koala ... though it reminded me of an old joke involving another species. "Why did the Koala cross the road?" :-). Well, it was screamingly funny, when I was 7 or 8 :-).

The current wine really makes a plane old demijohn look pretty. Like fine Italian art glass. There's nothing like opening the pantry doors and getting that blast of color from the stuff I put up in jars. Where ARE my sunglasses. :-). In the dark of winter, it gives one a little lift.

So, Poopy was in the doghouse? I'm sure there are humane (and probably labor intensive) ways of breaking dogs of bothering chickens. Was it here, or somewhere else I read about someone flinging chickens at a dog when it was a pup? Of course, one method in Ye Olde Days was attaching a dead chicken, firmly to a dogs neck and letting nature and decomposition take it's course. Somehow, that seems more punishing to the owner, than the dog.

I usually put Nell in the bathroom when I open up the back door to feed Beau. The other day, I forgot. So I opened up the backdoor and there they were, nose to nose. I didn't realize Nell had come up behind me. They were both so surprised that they froze in place, just long enough for me to scoop up Nell, shut the door and all was well. Take if from the top, once again.

"Shoplifter in an SUV." Sounds like a bad country / western song :-). Like the old guy I saw with the facial tattoos (clearly, not a Maori ... he had that look of a ginger who's hair has gone white) there must be an interesting story, there. Either an economic one, or a psychological one. As far as economics go, there's been several articles about how we really don't know what's going on with our neighbors, financially. Even in dire economic circumstances, people work so hard to "keep up appearances."

Glad you got a bit of rain to break up the heat, a bit. Speaking of adaption, it's usually pretty cold in my house, in the mornings. Probably in the low 50sF. So, I go out, first thing and take care of the chickens, and when I come back inside, it feels toasty warm.

Didn't get to the cookies, last night, as Chef John stopped by to pass judgement on my holiday tat :-). Passed inspection, but he thought I was a bit under decorated ... compared to him :-). I set out the last of the pumpkin cookies, which were pretty hard and on their last leg ... but fine with a cuppa. Two of my friends oatmeal chew and the baked chocolate bars she sent ... well, I took one and cut it in half ... so the Chef thought he was getting two. I do the same with Beau's dog biscuits. :-).

Haven't got to the beet root, yet, as the hamburger from the Ghost Bull is still lost, somewhere in the freezer. I get pretty mulish sometimes about food I can make, even if I don't. I refuse to buy mayo at the store, because I have eggs, I have oil, so why? Even if I don't seem to ever get around to making it. Same with crackers. I could make my own. But what do I do? I substitute plane nonfat yogurt for the mayo and if I need to spread something on a cracker, usually toast up some bread and cut it into squares.

I don't know about a well balanced eco-system, I really think it was just the heat, as far as the slugs go. There also haven't been any rabbits about, for several months. Though the last time I said that, one showed up the next day. Lew

SLClaire said...

Hello and happy solstice to you! (Winter for me, summer for you)

It's the winter solstice on the calendar, but you wouldn't know it by the weather. We tied our record high of 67F / 20C today (Monday). It's supposed to cool down to the mid 50sF tomorrow but pop back up to the mid 60sF on Wednesday before cooling down into the 50sF again, still more than 10F over normal. It's also supposed to be wet on Wednesday and even wetter over the weekend, with some chance of severe weather as well. I'm glad your weather has cooled down for the moment.

That's the thing about living in the US Midwest: we get the extremes all year long. Yes, it's gotten up over 104F / 40C at times during the summer, not every year but it's not rare either. 2012 was the most extreme example recently, where it went over 105F several days during a very long summer and topped out at 108F twice, as I recall. Last summer was cooler but it went to 100F at least once.

Where I live the number of yearly heating degree days is unevenly decreasing with time while the number of yearly cooling degree days is unevenly increasing. Since I've lived for over 30 years as an adult in the St. Louis metro area and have always been a weather geek, the change is quite apparent. It's this change that worries me about apples and other fruit trees. Since the US is large and has a wide range of climates, nurseries sell many different varieties adapted to differing amounts of chill hours. I bought varieties that can handle warmer winters than St. Louis normally experiences, but they still do need some real winter. The other issue is having plants that don't need many chill hours come into bloom much too early, thinking it's spring already. That happened in March 2012 when fruit trees began blooming a month before the usual last frost date. I held my breath, but the impossible happened, we had no more frost, and my trees produced excellent crops. While winter has two more months to go and we don't get the worst cold until January, the latest winter predictions suggest it will continue to be warmer than normal through March here. Nothing to do but watch and wait. On the other hand, my tea camellias won't mind a warm winter a bit! As they say, it's an ill wind that blows no good.

Jo said...

Chris, I am so jealous of your rain photo! Glorious, but where is my rain?? You'd think moving to Tassie would have assured me of a reasonable rainfall, but not this year. We are 200mls down on an average year's rain - we have only had 460mls so far this year, and Sep and Oct were the driest on record. On the bright side that meant brilliant fruit set, as many years it rains or frosts just as the fruit blossom comes on, but this year - masses of apricots:)

Learning to garden for uncertain extremes appears to be the new normal. I have been saving my pennies, and am about to get the plumber in to advise me on adding water tanks for extra summer self-reliance.

Still waiting on chickens - what are your thoughts on Australorps??

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

Nice work with the tomatoes. Out of interest, did you start your seedlings in the house, outside or are they purchased seedlings? I started this lot in the house, but I got them into the ground two weeks late, so there has been a lot of die off and replacements until they seem more or less stable now. They were ready to be planted, but the enclosure that they're now in wasn't ready.

Also out of interest, how are you staking your tomato vines up? I've never grown them in the arrangement in neat rows that they are in now, so I'm waiting to see what happens.

Yeah, it sure does rain a lot in your part of the planet. Also the west coast of Tasmania has some of the biggest surf in Australia. Really rough seas. I reckon the tomato plants get hardier as the season goes on. On the other hand I went to water them this morning and one of the water pumps has stopped working so I'm waiting until it is a bit later in the afternoon and pull the system apart to see what has gone wrong.

I spotted your blog update. Awesome!

Yeah, the NW of Tasmania has excellent climate for agriculture and the proximity to Bass Strait means that it is well watered but not too cold. The wind could be a problem, but that is what hedgerows are all about. The Blackwood forests are amazing too. And too right, the views are outstanding. Yeah, it is a gamble for everyone.

No spoilers!!!! Hehe! Glad to hear that you enjoyed it. I heard the Mark Fennell review and he was raving about it. I may wait a week or two for things to settle down before the editor and I check it out. Should be fun.

Yeah, I came to the same conclusion several years ago. I look at them, they look at me with this stubborn look in their eyes which says: I'm not gonna do what you tell me! ;-)! And they mean it too.

I guy I know uses broody chooks as an incubator for chicks which he raises for meat birds. He buys fertilised eggs and places them under the broody hen and then she raises the chicks. It all seems to work well.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Thanks very much. It is good isn't it, but the heat has caused some of the berries to start mildly fermenting - but that is probably pretty good for your stomach. I'm leaving the photos of the apricots and apples for next blog!

I have to put some brain cells towards how I can extend my strawberry season without having to use so much water and giving them shade at the same time. It is an interesting and complex problem.

I hear you and it is a sensible choice, plus you may realise I have the exact opposite problem with the weather that you have, whilst at the same time enjoying freedom from neighbours. I spotted them having to bring in a couple of trucks of water the other day, so over the Christmas break I'll see if they need a hand with their water systems. Dunno, we'll see how it goes.

Poor things. I feel for them. The same thing is happening here every autumn too. Last year the crab apples even flowered and grew these tiny little fruit, and I don't recall them flowering this spring.

Wow! What a story, thanks for sharing that. I'm glad that both you and your sister were careful with the candles.

You just reminded me of a story from a long time ago when I lived in a house with an open brick fire place - which as another interesting side note almost burnt the place down because whomever constructed or repaired the chimney used the incorrect mortar on the bricks and the mortar shrunk and the fire and embers escaped into the adjoining room... Oh yeah, that same fire place - now thankfully repaired - was in use and a friend chucked a piece of timber into the fire and embers went all over the room. Lucky the place didn't catch fire again.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Happy solstice to you as well! Yeah, I know - it makes me worried what sort of a January and February this place is going to have. Plus your winter has been crazy wet and it is early days yet. What are the long range forecasts saying about your January and February? They reckon we may get a Christmas present of some rain, which is the tail end of what is shaping up to be a tropical cyclone way up on the northern end of this continent - which may make landfall on Christmas day up there.

That is a groaner! Well done, I love those jokes! :-)! The poor Koala was heat stressed and I sort of got a blanket which I keep handy for such things and gently nudged the Koala in the direction of the tree. The poor thing was having trouble climbing up a vertical dirt embankment and the blanket came in handy - Koala's have wickedly sharp and large claws.

Doesn't it! The colour is amazing too and very unlike that commercial currant flavoured drink which is a sort squid ink black colour and tastes heavily of serious quantities of sugar...

The more stored produce the merrier I reckon. Do you find yourself doing a clear out sometimes? The dogs here are currently enjoying the excessive quantities of green tomato chutney in their breakfast - and they love the stuff.

Those are good suggestions, but I'm a bit too soft to implement them. Mind you, I reckon you're spot on as the dogs would seriously enjoy the smell of a dead chicken. They'd probably roll around in it and ask: Hey boss, where can we get another one?

That was an unexpected turn of events and it is good to see that Nell and Beau were as surprised as you were! You know, I reckon Nell would take the first swipe. What do they say about fighting like cats and dogs (or is that raining like?)? Anyway, it sounds good. ;-)!

Haha! So true. It is a country song in the making. There are some very amusing country songs and it is nice to see them not take themselves too seriously. Hmmm, I reckon that the debt is the key. That film I saw recently about the 99ers explored that concept in depth - it was like watching rabbits in the headlight and the games that went on...

Low 50's is not much different to here during winter - if I let the fire run out overnight. I've never seen lower than about 54'F inside over winter though. You adapt as you say. How about the frozen fingers when your hands come into contact with the chicken’s water over the depths of winter. Brrr!

Glad that you passed muster! Chef John sounds like a tough critic! You know, you are starting to make me feel guilty about the lack of Christmas tat here. Polar bears and reindeers are just strange concepts down here - but people persist. Hey, I'm going to try and get a photo of some kangaroo lights chasing off some reindeer lights over the next night or so. The place I normally go to and have a look at the Christmas lights has gone completely feral this year. It is impressive in the sheer volume of stuff on display! I wonder what Chef John would say?

OK, what is your mayo secret? I've never made the stuff - not that I use much of it, but still... Does it taste nice?

Fair enough, the slugs don't like the dry at all.

I went into the big smoke today to do the market run for fruit and veg and it was feral. The week before Christmas gets a lot of newbies turning up thinking to save some cash and buy at the market and they make it such a horrendous experience for everyone that they must say to themselves that they just won't go again until next Christmas. There were people everywhere - it was crazy busy! At least it wasn't very warm today 77'F and I enjoyed an excellent beef and burgundy pie for lunch. YUM!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

Happy solstice to you as well! And may you get some snow.

Thanks for the detailed notes on your weather as I have to confess I'm a bit of a weather geek too! :-)! You have fascinating and complex weather patterns in your part of the world. What is interesting is how surprisingly warm it is in your part of the world right now. Those temperatures would be very unusual for late June here. It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next two months.

Of course you were very clever to have planted low chill varieties of your fruit trees as that buys you some breathing space should the climate lurch further towards the warmer side of things. The early blooming problem in late autumn / early winter is a problem here too. Some of the fruit trees even produce stunted fruit as well as blossoms. Exactly, the fruit trees can adapt to the conditions and may also then produce a bumper crop of fruit without the chilling hours the following summer, so it can be very hard to know how the trees will respond - and I don't believe that anyone actually knows.

Incidentally, if the chilling hours occur at night then I understand that there is no requirement for them to be consecutive hours.

Yes, your tea camellia's will very much enjoy the warmer conditions, just watch out for any errant frosts with them - although I recall you saying that your varieties were a little bit hardy to very light frosts? You may be interested to know that my coffee shrub is looking a little bit dry and toasted right now, but it may pull through as I'm planning to give it a massive feed of manure tomorrow morning. The feeding of the orchard will continue tomorrow and Sunday by which time, I hope that it is complete.

You may be interested to know that last year was a very mild summer with rainfall at almost perfect intervals. In fact - despite it being quite warm with 2 days above 40'C / 104'F it was an easy summer. The previous summer produced 10 days above 40'C / 104'F with negligible rainfall between October and February. The growing season here is definitely getting longer. I may receive a Christmas present this year of perhaps an inch of rain on boxing day. This is unfortunate for the people on the northern edge of this continent because it looks as though a deepening low pressure system may turn into a tropical cyclone for them on Christmas day. The city of Darwin was flattened by a tropical cyclone on Christmas day in 1975. Fortunately building standards have improved following that cyclone. The photos are like a war zone.

By the way, the average maximum temperature this month here is 27.2’C which is 3’C above the long term average…

If you are interested in the rainfall forecasts they can be found here with a 5 day clickable forecast: Forecast Rainfall. All things are subject to change though - at short notice without warning!

Enjoy your solstice and I wish you some solid snow and cooler conditions.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Jo,

Not to stress about the rain as it was only a couple of millimetres. Boxing day looks very likely to provide you with an excellent dump of rain (hopefully anyway)! Honestly, I have my fingers crossed for yourself as well as myself here. It has been so incredibly hot that I worry.

On the plus side of that rainfall equation you are spared the incredibly hot winds that are driven down from the north west of this vast arid continent. At least you are in a cooler part of the world and the rivers that flow from the centre and west of your island are thoroughly reliable. :-)! By the way, the last time I was in the Gorge Park, I enjoyed a very civilised high tea (scones etc.) and it was like being transported back to the 19th century. Nice!

Oh yeah, the apricots would love those conditions. I gifted one of my first ripened apricots today to a worthy person too. How good are apricots? If any sun ripened variety of stone fruit deserves to be preserved then it would be an apricot. Yum!

I'm learning here too. If you would like a second opinion about the water tanks, you only have to ask.

Australorps are lovely natured chickens - although they do get a bit shirty if they are broody. And by shirty, I mean they will peck you. But other than that they are lovely and I have known a few of them. On the negative side, if their litter gets too damp during the depths of winter, they can be a bit susceptible to leg scaly mites as they only have short legs. As a suggestion, Isa Browns are very commonly available chickens and they have very plucky and inquisitive natures and slightly longer legs which means they are less susceptible to leg scaly mites. If you are dead keen on Australorps and there is no reason to dismiss them, just ensure they have a clean enclosure with fresh mulch and/or straw come winter and you'll be OK.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - SNOW!!! About 2, yesterday afternoon, I thought the rain looked a bit "thick." Then it started to snow. Snowed for about an hour, but didn't "stick." Weird. There was no mention of snow in any of the forecasts. I had to take a package over to the Evil Step Son, and he said it snowed, stuck and there was slush in Olympia (where he works.) Given his nature is to always have a better idea, or, tell a better story, I'll take that with a grain of salt. Or, maybe a pound :-).

Good ol' Cliff Mass, the weather guy, came up with some of that rain data you were interested in. These amounts are for the month of December, and as he pointed out, we've still got 1/3 of a month to go. Portland's record rainfall was 13.35 inches .. and, they've had 13.52, so far. Astoria (a town at the mouth of the Columbia River) has a record of 20.38 ... so far, it's been 18.68, this month. Seattle's record is 11.85. So far, this month, they're up to 10.03. Records in some places go back to 1917. In other places 1946.

I date everything in the pantry and keep it rotating. So far, nothing has got away from me.

Homemade mayo has a taste like ... mayo :-). A couple drops of lemon juice make it tangy. But, it tends to separate, faster.

Didn't get to the cookies, again. My friend Scott, stopped by. But, I did find my cookie cutters without too much problem. Like the Christmas decorations, I've been picking up cookie cutters for years and didn't really know what, or how many I had. Lots. There were Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Halloween cookie cutters. Plus some misc. ones. I picked out a few nice Christmas ones, and gave them a good wash. Started looking at recipes. Besides the chapter in most general cookbooks, I have a Sunset cookie book and one from Better Homes and Gardens. It's all mind boggling. Think I'll just start with a basic sugar cookie dough ... and I have some interesting topping ideas involving blueberries, cranberries and chocolate. Can't leave a recipe, alone.

Nell is an interesting cat. When Chef John was here, she could take him or leave him. Now, Scott ... she was all over him. Got quit flirty. Maybe the difference is John doesn't have any cats and Scott does. Glad I gave her claws a good trim, a couple of days ago. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

P.S. Long range forecast for January and February is still warmer and dryer. We'll see. Lew

Pam in Virginia said...

Happy Solstice, All! I am a little late for the other side of the world; power has been out - hello, Lewis! - and the computer has been sick.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris!

Funny kangaroos! I had a brain freeze about "Bikram" then I remembered - posturing!

Outdoor cooking with an indoor picnic? It's opposite day?

Sorry to hear about the nut trees. it's so hard to lose food trees; they take so very long to begin producing, especially nuts.

I like your frog stories, especially the rubber-ducky frog.

Gosh, that tomato growth is incredible! I guess that they love heat!

Baked Scritchy a la Silky.

What do you do with all that wine - am I afraid to ask?

Our daddy long leg spiders might be much like yours. I have always heard that their mouths are so small that they cannot bite humans. They must bite somebody, however. I don't know if they are poisonous. We have skinks! When they are babies they are the tiniest, cutest things with neon blue tails. They like to hang on the window screens. When they are a little older they are very companionable and will sit by me on the porch.

Nasty about the sharks and crocodiles! We watched a show about the Megalodon shark - over 60 feet long (18+ meters) and supposedly still in existence. If there was a Fernglade Beach, I'd expect to see one . . .

Frizzles are bizarre looking chickens. I am sorry that Poopy and Frizz had a set-to. I could have guessed who would come out ahead. Glad to know that Poopy is a contrite and chastened pup now - Hehe!

So glad you had some rain.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Damo:

What a gorgeous beach! You are a lucky fisherman!

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Lew:

I love your homey kind of stories!

That was probably me that mentioned the chicken-flinging. HOWEVER, it was accomplished with as much respect as possible towards the chickens and it was for their own good and they were too young to lay yet. All in good fun . . . ? They were a very plucky group and used to participate in chicken circuses as well.

I was never able to trim our cats' claws. They were a bunch of stinkers about it.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Inge:

Sensible postman you have. I'm with you about the neighbors, or hopeful lack thereof.

"It is very warm, wet and very, very windy." That is just what it is here; the "windy" was undoubtedly the cause of our power outage.

Ha ha! You and your sister had quite a time with those candles!

Pam

Angus Wallace said...

Hi Chris,

Love your tales, and glad to hear that you (and most of your farm) came through the recent heat wave intact. I can't imagine what it must be like to look out at a bush-fire in the distance -- nerve-racking, I reckon.

Your tomatoes look good. We've got but little fruit form ours (most are only about 30cm tall, and are stunted but fruiting), but what we have got has been exceptional. Strong flavoured -- essence of tomato ;-)

Our heatwave was a cracker -- it's shocking having such head so early in summer. I hope that Jan and Feb are not an extension of this!

Have you heard the term "lumbersexual"? A Friend was telling me about it recently. Funny stuff.

I hope you and the editor have a great Christmas, and don't overindulge on home-brew (I've completed three brews recently and hope to sample some of each of the holidays :-)

Cheers, Angus

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yay for snow! Oh yeah, those snow clouds are a really dark grey colour and they always look threatening! It is a shame that it didn't settle on the ground as a nice snowy Christmas would sort of match all of the tat! Did Beau go out into the snow to check out what was going on? You are an absolute saint to deliver the packages to the Evil Step Son - or maybe I have a low tolerance threshold? Dunno. You've gotta love that sort of one up-man-ship that some people do. When I was very young, one of the people in my circle of acquaintances was a chronic liar and it used to drive me bananas - even when the guy was caught out - there was no shame or remorse, he'd just go onto the next lie. As an interesting side note, from what I hear, he has left a trail of destruction in his wake. Back to you - you're a saint for delivering those parcels...

Those rain numbers are huge for a single month. Thanks for the data. Is the ground slushy and muddy in your part of the world right now? Wow, that rainfall is huge. I'm just excited that perhaps on Saturday, they're predicting I might get half an inch of rainfall... Just in case there is more rain, I've started transferring water about the place today - it is a slow process.

Good to hear. I put the month and year on preserves too. Some of the jams and chutneys are 2 years old now and they seem perfect when I open them. I've never gifted jams just in case the lid seal failed - I can cope with the result, but other people may freak out. Actually, a while back I picked up a huge stock of brand new lids. Do you find that the seals in the lids are the weak link?

Very funny! Thanks for the suggestion though - it never would have occurred to me to make mayo. Lemon is tough on cooking and it can do all sorts of unpredictable things.

Glad to hear that you have a worthy store of cookie cutters. Are they metal or plastic cutters as I've seen both and wondered which ones would be more hardy?

Cats know cat people don't they - although I rarely have trouble with cats. Sometimes I reckon people move too fast for them and don't allow for the cat to adjust to the human? Dunno. Dogs know people that own dogs and they have very little in the way of polite behaviour when they do spot someone that owns a dog!

It is starting to heat up here again, but nothing too scary (hopefully). I moved more manure today. It is sort of weird because I start at one end of the farm and then work across the farm and then by the time I've finished that, I have to start all over again... It is never ending. I said to the guy at the sand and soil place that it was good for him that my place eats manure!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Warmer may mean wetter too with increased evaporation from the sea surface - the oceans are certainly getting hotter and that drives the tropical weather patterns.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Oh no! No power and sick computers? Are they related problems or is this just a coincedence?

Exactly - Bikram Yoga is some sort of yoga done in very high temperatures - about what the outside temperature was on the extreme weather days here. ;-)! I was just being funny! You wouldn't catch me doing yoga in those sorts of temperatures...

Oh yeah, the old timers down here used to have the kitchens in an entirely different and separate building from the main house because of the fire risk - but also the heat would have been a real problem over summer. I've seen some old houses down here with bathrooms in the backyard too for much the same reason and don't forget the outhouse!

The frogs are great. I hope the chickens didn't get the squeaky rubber ducky frog?

The tomatoes are feral this year. If things keep on going the way they are, then I'll probably have fruit by February.

That sounds about right. Your skinks sound quite nice, the ones here sun-bake on the rocks in the garden beds, but they scatter when the dogs or I get anywhere near them. Hey, I've spotting the blue banded bees today which is very cool - I'll try and get a photo of them - they love the salvias. Oh yeah, the skinks here can drop their tales at will (I'm sure it hurts them, but it is better than being food).

I don't want to meet that shark! There has been a lot of debate in the media over shark attacks down here recently and I reckon the sharks are hungry so they're coming in closer to the shore.

Yeah, I don't know about that. Chastened - yes, contrite - probably not. He pretends disinterest in the chickens nowadays, but I don't trust him.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Angus,

It is a bit nerve wracking and I don't reckon I've ever gotten used to that risk. You just sort of live with it and do the best you can. The video and images from the Scotsburn fire were quite disturbing. I'm trying to reduce the risk as much as possible, but I need at least another decade...

Yeah, the sun and heat really concentrates the sugars in all of the fruit. Maybe a good dose of water may bring your tomatoes back to life? I have to water them most days, but the fruit is worth the hassle. Most non commercial fruit is small anyway - that is how life is. I'll keep up the tomato photos so you'll get to see how they roll as the season goes on. Hey, are you going to do an update on your place? I'd be very interested to see those wicking beds in action.

Oh yeah, I'm a bit more than slightly worried now. But who knows what Jan and Feb will bring. There's a very strong low pressure system developing over the Northern Territory right now and who knows what will happen with that as it may drag some water down south? Dunno.

Yeah, that's pretty funny. Hipsters would die here!

Thanks very much. Over indulging means ramping up the production too much. I'm in total awe at how the old timers used to produce so much. I should do a post on that one of these days.

I wish you and your family a nice Christmas too (and some rainfall).

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I wish everyone a happy Christmas.

Cookie cutters: I have both metal and plastic ones that have been in my possession for over 50 years; they are all doing fine.

Now I have never had a cat or a dog nor ever wanted one. But haha! they really love me. So I am unconvinced as to their ability to discriminate. I think that they wax ever hopeful except where they have reason to believe that they are actively disliked. It was not nice to see what my mother's cat did when my stepfather came into a room. The cat would head for the wall and get out as fast as possible crawling around the edge under the furniture.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Pam - I trim Nell's claws about every two weeks, or so. Just the front ones. She won't let me at the back ones :-). I have to wait until she takes a nap, in my lap when I'm watching a dvd or reading. Nail clippers at hand. So, she's kind of groggy. Also, if I keep up a constant stream of patter ... baby talk, she lets me at them. I started doing them, when she was very young, so she knows the drill. And, that it won't hurt. Also, there was a certain amount of training (as much as you can train a cat) when she was little. The dreaded spray bottle! So, she understands "No!" .... or, at least hesitates when she's up to something. I haven't had to actually spray her, in a long time. Just waving the bottle around, usually does the trick. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Well, all the packages just end up at my place, due to the layout. And, I don't like the clutter.

Speaking of compulsive liars, and other nefarious sorts, I used to have a bookstore customer that would drop in a pick up a magazine, twice a month. And, he tried to short change me, every time! I've worked so much retail, it's second nature for me to leave any bill on the register shelf ... until the transaction is complete. So, he never nailed me. But, I finally came to realize that it was second nature, to him. It was habit ... no thought involved at all.

Yeah, the rings are the weak point in the whole canning process. Come The End of Absolutely Everything, most traditional canning will die out, pretty fast. Not a very resilient process, long term. But ... there are lids and rings out there that are re-usable. My friend who moved to Idaho ordered up some. But, it was just before they decided to move to Idaho, and I don't think she's done any canning since. So, I don't know how well they worked in practice. I remember you had to be sure and reverse the rings, with every use. But even those would give out, given time. But, there are pretty glowing, independent reports, on line.

All the cookie cutters are metal, and a couple have wood handles. Of the 40 or so I have, there were only 3 plastic ones ... and I tossed them.

The sugar cookies are made! Per usual, there was some ups and downs. Chill the dough and divide it in half. Sounds simple. Chill the dough and watch it crumble into pieces :-). So, I worked in small batches, adding a few drops of water as I went along. My experiments were, for the most part, a wash out. Blueberries and cranberries worked out ok, but would be too fragile for transport ... and, I think they'd "go off" pretty fast. Experimented with regular sugar, on top ... sugar and cinnamon and sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Flavors really too subtle to tell much difference. Glueing a smaller star on a larger star was quit pretty. Used the wrong chocolate for a topping. Did stick, but just in square globs. Grated on, it would work ... or, get the right chocolate :-). But all in all, they taste pretty good. Now I have a bag to take to my friend Scott ... and some if anyone drops by.

I use ... air bake cookie sheets. It's a two layer sheet. Almost impossible to burn anything on them, but the cooking time is at least twice as long. After 6 dozen cut out cookies, or so, I lost patience and the last dozen were sugar cookie balls :-). Not bad, at all.

Well, it's off to the Little Smoke. I'm sure every stop I have to make will be a zoo. Gird the loins and plunge in! Lew

SLClaire said...

Hi Chris,

The tea camellias I have are a variety which can take a lot of frost and should be at least marginally hardy even in my (for a camellia) severe winters. I have mulched each one with a foot or two of whole oak leaves held within a cylinder of chicken wire, as suggested by the book on growing plants farther north than their stated range. If it were to get very cold, I could bag up more leaves, stuff them into the open portions of the cylinder, and then cover each cylinder with some sheeting to reduce the effects of wind and cold. Not that anything like that has been needed so far. It's only gotten below freezing on a handful of nights and the coldest official low is something like 22F to date. I still have healthy arugula and mustard greens in the garden.

Meanwhile, although we are well north of the prime location for the predicted tornado outbreak this afternoon (Wednesday) and evening, we also have a chance for some tornadic action, although not as many and probably not as intense of tornadoes as in the highest-risk areas in eastern Arkansas and neighboring states. We are under a tornado watch for the next six hours as of when I am typing this. After a morning of much rain and a few thunderstorms, the sky has lightened, the sun is shining weakly, and the current temperature is about 60F at around 2pm and likely to go up a bit. Perfect conditions for severe thunderstorms. We won't set a record for high temperature today and it will cool off tomorrow and Friday as the cool air behind the cold front comes in, but the air mass we are under now is the one that will move east and create a record-warm Christmas for the US east coast. Then heavy rains are to move in on us for the weekend. If the amounts they are predicting materialize, we will set a yearly rainfall record. And we still have two months of winter to go ...

Hope you have a good Christmas!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

It is good to hear that your plastic and metal biscuit cutters are still doing well after that period of time. I'm especially impressed about the plastic ones as the plastic kitchen things get so brittle over time, but some don't though - and it is generally the older plastic items that don't. By the way, do you cook biscuits often?

Haha! The canines and felines can sense your general disinterest and it becomes a challenge to their very natures! Exactly, you are very correct. What do they say? Hope springs eternal. :-)!

Well, sometimes canines and felines can be sensitive to danger, and sometimes they just sort of know that some humans can mean trouble for them. I once met a friend (an ex house mate from way back in the late 80's) at the local market and her partner was there with their two kids. One of the kids seemed OK, but the other and older one was hiding behind the mother and then behind signs and generally keeping as far away from the father as possible. The father explained to me with a straight face that he used to yell at the kids a lot and I was thinking to myself that that kid was scarred. The same thing happened to Poopy with the previous owners and I have to be very gentle and consistent with him. Not good.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

That is really interesting about cutting the cats claws. Still, I guess it beats the cats sharpening their claws on the furniture? I once had a flat mate that owned a cat and the little rotter used to enjoy climbing up the walls and slowly fall back down to Earth whilst shredding the wall paper at the same time. Needless to say that we did not get our rental bond back from that particular house. We had 5 people in that house and it was a lot of fun - but those sort of dramas would send me loopy nowadays. Fortunately such dramas are a long way away - I just have to worry about: bush fires; floods; heat waves; tornadoes; break downs of the infrastructure here; injuries... There's a lot of problems on the radar really - it is a target rich environment. That sounds a bit Top Gun doesn't it?

Of course, neatness is a virtue too! I'd be a bit worried that he'd come along and say that there was a package which he'd seen and that you didn't deliver...

That customer would be a nightmare. I reckon people like that trade off other peoples good natures. From what I've experienced of those sorts is that they don't do very well in life because they're constantly leaving behind disasters in their wake. What do you reckon about that? Some people destroy social links because that is in their nature - as you also quite rightly pointed out.

Yeah! So true. The lack of bottles down here is a real problem and no one seems to notice. With the preserving I do for stone fruit, I reuse the rubber seals many times, but they eventually become brittle and every crack in the rubber seal is an opportunity to let air into bottle along with all of the nasties that it may carry.

Just out of interest, is there any particular reason that they don't continue with canning in Idaho? Oh, just remembered I better send a Christmas email to my mate in Ohio...

Fair enough about the cookie cutters. Don't you think it is funny that people use that term for housing as well - not so much down here though? They usually call them project houses down here - or housing developments. I'll bet that a lot of thought went into what to call them. With the wooden handles are there two of the handles or just a single handle for an individual cutter?

Nice work. That happens with cooking experimentation doesn't it? :-)! I use an egg in the mix to bind all of the ingredients together. But I then have to chill the mix otherwise the whole sticks to your hands after more than a few biscuits. They get a bit tacky. The other binding agent I use is honey, although it gives the biscuits a very different taste to an egg/sugar mix. I haven't quite worked out how to get the biscuits to stay fresh for more than a couple of days - but then that means they have to be eaten pretty quick smart doesn't it? How long to do your biscuits last. I don't add preservatives or salt into the mix. Fruit is a tough one, but you could add in previously dried fruit - that works well and dates are particularly nice. Yum!

What is an air bake cookie sheet? I looked it up but the link showed some sort of aluminium baking tray? I use baking paper here and then eventually put it in the worm farm.

I get a bit slack with the biscuit shapes and they are usually not for discerning company! They taste good, but certainly wouldn't win any prizes at the local Country Women's Association event. The editor took out a prize for an apple cake many years ago and despite all of the other achievements, that award certificate has pride of place in the kitchen. It was a very good cake but caused a bit of a controversy...

Cheers

Chris



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

Your idea for heavily mulching the camellia's is an excellent idea. Nice work. Just as an interesting side note to you, the woody mulch actually attracts frost down here, whereas the compost - which I assume is a bit warmer due to the bacterial activity - sort of repels frost so I've been experimenting with that over the past year or so.

Do your tea camellia's have a specific name? The reason I ask is because the one's I have grown here come from a nursery which is in a warmer part of the continent so they are not as frost hardy as I would like and if I could track down a better variety for cool climates (not that you'd know it today as it just passed 36'C (96.8'F) at about 5pm... I've had to use a bit more water this year on the garden and vegetables than I usually do. I'll include some statistics about the water reserves here over the next few weeks.

The arugula and mustard greens (and reds) love winter here. Summer, they're not so excited about and the last of them (other than the perennial rocket) is going toes up right now. On an interesting side note for you, I plan to grow rocket and mustard's as the winter crop within the tomato beds. The mustard's in particular have a reputation for their root systems acting as a fungicide.

Stay safe. A tornado is not much of a Christmas present (a little tornado hit here on Christmas day about 3 maybe 4 years ago now). I love a good thunderstorm and the editor and I have been known to sit on the veranda (under cover, mind you) and watch the sky light up and listen to the thunder boom. It is always where the high and low pressure systems converge and the air becomes unsettled and changes from hot to cold - not usually the other way around.

60'F is about 15.5'C and that's a pretty pleasant temperature really. But no one seriously wants record breaking weather conditions and people say some strange things about summer down here about how much they enjoy it, whilst at the same time living in an air conditioned house, working in an air conditioned building and driving an air conditioned car. It is just not good. Record rainfall is not a bad thing if your infrastructure is up to the task of dealing with it.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I woke to a glorious sunrise this morning + the birds singing their heads off. Now it has gone dark, I have a light on and it is pouring with rain. Aha it is brightening up again.

I am horrified at the story of the child trying to hide from the father even when out in public!

Cookie cutters/housing? Please explain.

I don't make biscuits all that often, the Christmas ones are a tradition. The rest of the year it is only ginger biscuits and flapjacks; I prefer to bake cakes and in the summer I don't usually bake either.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - I remember we had a camellia bush, next to our porch in Portland. It was quit well established and about 15' tall. Portland it known for it's ice storms, which blow out of the Columbia River Gorge. I can remember the camellia being totally frosted with about 1/2" of ice. Several times. Quit pretty and never seemed to do any harm.

Oh, yeah. I had an egg in the cookie mix. The one's that have the handles are just a single turned ... bobbin, about two inches high. One has a peculiar color of a kind of apple green. You always know that kind of kitchen equipment, is, usually from the 1930s. "Cream and green" was a popular color combination, for kitchens. Maybe because it was an institutional green that evoked hospitals and cleanliness?

Also found a donut cutter, mixed in! I'm not one for deep frying, anything. The mess! But, I have a donut cookbooks and every recipe has an alternative method of baking the donuts. Something I want to try. When I get the oven fixed. I seem to have burned out an element. Sigh. Yes, that's them. The Air Bakes are two layers of aluminum with an air space, in between.

Who gives a heck about the furniture? It's when the cat starts using my leg as a scratching post, that it get's dicey. :-). Chef John is one of those bluff fellows who runs around in shorts, in all weathers. So that was rather amusing :-).

Well, when my friends moved to Idaho, they pretty much "retired." Not that they ever use the term. No chickens, no canning. She seems to have one physical problem after another. If it isn't her back, it's her knees. Or, hips.

Oh, the politics of the Country Women's Association, and groups like it. We've talked about that, before. My friend in Idaho had a dust up with the local quilter's group.

Cookie cutter sameness in housing. And today's ear worm is .... "Little Boxes." Done by numerous (mostly folky) artists. "Little boxes, on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky ..." Speaking of sameness in design, when I worked for Walden Books in the 70s, they were throwing up stores so fast that they had two or three construction crews, roaming the country, just building Walden stores. Well, of course, it was that they wanted a corporate sameness ... and identity. And, I'm sure buying construction materials in bulk made sense. Each store had a twee bay window, in front for display. I suppose if you ordered 20 of them at a time, there was quit a price break. I always had this vision (hallucination?) that they just wheeled in a giant tooth paste tube, the construction workers would all start jumping on it, and, a fully furnished shop would just squirt into the space provided in what ever mall. :-). Cont.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. - Woke up to a light skiff of snow. interesting word, "skiff." Nothing nautical involved, at all. A Scottish word from the early 1700s, that meant "to move lightly and quickly, barely touching the surface." Probably related to "scuff", "...brush against something lightly." Talked to my landlord (the step father of the evil step son) and he happened to be in Olympia for his thrice weekly cardio rehab. It did snow ... quit a bit. A white out at one point.

Well, my chickens were finally "getting with the program". I got 4 eggs on Monday and 5 on Tuesday. Then, the light burned out in the coop sometime Tuesday night, they "lost the plot" and I got no eggs on Wednesday. I had a back up bulb. 5 this morning. Touchy birds. Any little change in their routine just throws them for a loop. I really quit like the 5 or 6 little sparrows that hang about the coop. I don't mind them. They take so little feed. The chickens take no notice of them and it's amusing to see them wandering around and under the great beasties (the chickens.)

I know what you mean about the stress of worrying about brush fires, tornados, the heat. It's always there, in the back of your mind. When I moved out of the lowlands, I just didn't realize how worrying about floods was always a (until then) unrecognized stress. It all came back when we had brushfires, close, this last summer. I see by this morning's headlines, that 9 were killed by tornados in the South.

Well, tonight is Christmas Eve. If the roads aren't too bad, I think I'll wander over to my local AA meeting. Through a quirk of the calendar, the regular weekly meeting falls on Christmas Eve ... and New Year's Eve, next week. Attendance may be light, and I feel like I should go and "show the flag." :-). Chef John is having a "do" tonight, but I'm just not up to dealing with a bunch of people I don't know. I told him I'd come by, tomorrow, to pick through the wreckage :-). If he's not up at White Pass, hitting the slopes and snow boarding. The road to White Pass is open again. And, unlike last year, they have lots of snow.

So, a Merry Christmas to All (or, whatever holiday you celebrate ... I've always been partial to Festivus, especially the "airing of the grievances, part :-) and a Happy and Prosperous (emphasis on the prosperous) New Year! Lew

PS: Would someone of the more English (or Empire) persuasion explain "Boxing Day?"

Pam in Virginia said...

Merry Christmas to all!

Love, Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

You know, if you analyze it, the dramas you have now are worse, maybe, than the ones you had in your youth. You were just too green behind the ears to realize it then. Hopefully, though, the dramas now are less frequent. Then, of course, we are all so much wiser now. Just ask us . . .

Thanks for the note about mustards and their root systems possibly acting as a fungicide. They have a rather sulfurous smell - could that be it?

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Inge:

My grandmother couldn't stand cats. We had a cat once who obviously knew that, and when he heard her voice he would hide behind a door and attack her legs as she went by. She then proceeded to whack him with her umbrella. I'm afraid that she usually got the worst of it and had to carry a pair of spare stockings with her. She was the loveliest person and loved people (and they, her) of any and all kinds, just not cats . . .

I love ginger biscuits. Is a flapjack what I would call pancakes or hotcakes: basically cake batter cooked in a frying pan? I try not to bake in the summer either, but that was before I got back to baking the family's bread. Maybe I can get an oven like Chris' and put it on the back porch.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Lew:

Smart of you to train Nell while she was still young. Have you trained her (with treats) to come when you whistle? We were able to do that with most of our cats as they were a pretty gluttonous group. Funny to see a bunch of cats come running; who says you can't herd cats?

Your baking adventures seem to always be salvageable. As my husband so kindly puts it: it's the taste that counts.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Claire:

I enjoy a clashing, good thunderstorm, barring the lightening, which knocked me down once, without actually striking me. But a tornado is one of the most fearful things there is. Here's hoping it misses your area.

Pam

Cathy McGuire said...

Hi, Chris -
Just popping in for a quick "Happy Solstice/Merry Christmas"! Sorry I've been absent, but between trying hard to focus on writing, and a bit of physical illness, I've been off most of the blogs this month (and most of the last). There's just too much to do, and I frankly don't know how you (and the others here) do it! Anyway, it's chilly and rainy (I'm getting rain like Lewis is)but the woodstove is warm. I'm so glad the light has turned and nights will be shorter, even if it takes a long time to see it!

Thanks for such a thorough and interesting blog! I often read it even though I don't comment (I feel guilty commenting then not coming back for the followup :-} ) Have a good holiday, and Chris I hope for a bit of cooler weather for you!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Merry Christmas to you!

The weather sure can be changeable. It is nice that your forests aren't quiet over winter.

Oh yeah, it wasn't good was it. But that is what I saw. The father didn't seem overly concerned about the damage either.

I think I'll leave that one to Lewis as it is a US term...

Oh! Ginger biscuits are yum. I make Anzac biscuits all of the time and enjoy them with my coffee - I do cheat and chuck in some dark chocolate too.

Is a flapjack a pancake?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, the camellia's are very frost, heat and drought hardy once established - but the tea camellia originates from a tropical area so I'm not sure it has those attributes. What do you reckon about yours surviving in a frost like the one you mentioned? I dunno really.

Good to hear about the egg. If my mixes are a bit dry I chuck a second egg in and that seems to do the trick. Crumbly mixes fall apart on me...

Who knows, but it is impressive that they are still functional all these years on. Today's plastic (and metal) kitchenware - the easily available stuff - just doesn't last. I had a garden fork that broke after the first use a few years back. Now I buy the best that I can afford and it seems to last well, but the editors grandfathers rake seems almost indestructible. Well apart from all of the new handles...

Sorry to hear about the oven... What exactly is a donut cutter? We don't have much of a culture of donuts down here except perhaps for the cinnamon style. Other than that you don't really see them.

Naughty Nell! Does she do that whole rolling around on her back clawing and biting thing? Apparently they're trying to tell you how much they like you when they're doing that. One of the dogs copied that trick from a cat they used to hang out with...

Oh, that's not good. I don't expect to be able to retire, so I'm trying to make things as simple as possible here. There always seems to be something to do or improve. Well, we keep learning I guess? But I'm also trying to reduce my expedniture all of the time and it isn't easy. I'm not sure I'd give up on the canning.

Yeah, don't pick someone elses fight at the local Quilters club! :-)!

Sorry, I have to run and will promise to continue replying tomorrow.

Best wishes for Christmas!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam and Cathy,

Best wishes for Christmas! And hope you all get some snow, wouldn't that be cool?

Thanks for your lovely comments and I promise to reply tomorrow.

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris and Pam

Flapjacks = oatcakes i.e. made mainly with porridge oats.

@Lew

Boxing Day = the day when the upper classes presented boxes (gifts) to their staff.

Inge

orchidwallis said...

@Lew again

Thanks for the Pete Seeger/cookie cutter explanation. I have areas where I am slow on the uptake.

Inge

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Lewis:

Sorry to hear about your oven. I hope new elements are too pricey? One of the burners on my stove is out; actually maybe it's a fuse, as I can turn on any 3 burners and they work, but not all 4 at the same time? Do stoves have fuses? Easy to live with 3 (or 2) burners; not so easy to lose the oven.

I wish we had a toothpaste tube for construction at our house. Everyone is tired of building stuff.

I looked up the lyrics to "Little boxes". Great song! It reminded me of "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by the Monkees (I know, I know, but I was just a little girl - still love them!).

I can't believe that you are getting that many eggs in the winter!

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

I hear you about tool handles! My husband saves promising pieces of wood from the firewood that he splits to later be made into handles. I have my great-grandmother's hoe. It finally broke off where it is attached to the handle and my son welded it on, good as old!

The same son and I were just working on the clutch in my truck this morning, but it started to rain again so we are stopped till probably tomorrow (we don't have a garage), so - no snow! Not good for out-of-doors auto repair!

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Pam - Yeah, as far as baking goes, it might not be pretty, but it usually tastes good :-). I've never trained, Nell to come, but she's pretty good about it. Except right at sunset. If I leave it too long, she doesn't want to come in. All that interesting stuff going on out in the dark. Which is about the worst time for her to be out, when the critters are stirring and looking for a quick breakfast!

Yo, Chris - Oh, I suppose if I can keep the frost off the tea plants, they'll do ok. Maybe. I'll figure out some heroic efforts (but mobile and thrifty) to throw over them if frost threatens.

I'm sure the kid will be fine, with years of intensive psychotherapy and a steady supply of drugs. Seriously, it is a sad situation. Reminds me of a dog Brother Bob the Bachelor Farmer, had. Some kind of a collie mix. It had obviously been abused, at some point. It would come cringing up to you ...wanting affection but afraid of it. And, in such a way that you just wanted to smack her. Not that I ever did. I'd always hunker down and call her too me, give her a good pet. And then turn on the hose! She loved to play with the spray. After Bob passed, Don found a good home for her with gentle people. I never even SPEAK badly to my animals. Never mind what I might be thinking :-).

A donut cutter is round, with a hole in the middle. Like a cookie cutter, but all of one piece. You find nesting biscuit cutter, that could be used to make donuts ... but it would be a two step process. A donut cutter is all of a piece. Just smack it down, and Bob's your Uncle. :-). I also have one or two old "dual purpose cutters." A biscuit cutter, but it has a removable bit that would make the donut hole. It just snaps into place. You see a lot around that have lost their "hole" part.

Another skiff of snow, last night. I think I'm right at the edge of all the stuff coming down in the mountains. Time to open presents! Lew

SLClaire said...

Chris, Camellia Forest Nursery, where I bought my tea camellias from, calls the one I bought Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, Small Leaf Tea, and claims it's hardy to USDA zone 6B, meaning hardy to winter lows around -5F. It's the varietal appellation that seems important to its being so cold-hardy. For Camellia sinensis without the varietal appellation, they list a cultivar 'Sochi', from a Russian tea plantation, that they also give a zone 6B rating to, and another called 'Black Sea Tea', developed from a Russian tea research station in what is now the country of Georgia, that they say may be hardy to zone 6B but put a question mark after it. All the other varieties they list are hardy to USDA zones 7 (0F) or 8 (10F).

It ended up that we didn't get any severe weather here, but there were tornadoes in Mississippi and nearby Tennessee that killed more than 10 people, last I read. We are to get heavy rain this weekend into early next week, with probably some thunderstorms as part of it. To you and Pam - we enjoy thunderstorms too, at least sometimes, but not if they are severe. Those just scare me.

Damo said...

Hi Chris,

I planted the tomatoes from seedlings with no consideration for staking. If we were more organised, I would have preferred to raise from seedlings but it never happened. All fun and games though, and at this stage I consider it all a learning exercise. I read somewhere that it takes 5 years just to become ' not awful' at gardening, so I feel it is worth while to have a go, even if I can't give it my full attention.

To stake, I just pressed thick sticks in with fingers crossed I wasn't destroying any roots. Do the cool, organised people stake when they plant?

At 6pm on the 23rd we got a call saying there were two crayfish waiting for us if we wanted. Bagged em up, froze them and took them north on the plane in carry on! I must say, whilst tasty (I had never cooked them before and didn't know what I was doing), I wouldn't want to buy them. I sorta feel this way about most seafood though - delicious and fun to catch and eat yourself. Not so much if you have to buy it!!

In a slightly related note, no one on adr seems interested in my philosophic musings on accepting the limits of industrial society whilst taking advantage of things like cheap flights and Xmas holidays with the family. I guess like most things, there is no real answer. At least one that isn't hypocritical at some level anyway.

Cheers, damo

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis, Pam and Inge,

Apologies for the interruption as I ran out of time to reply, and the annual orphans Christmas day festivities were calling! The day was 35'C (95'F) and the wind was howling. It was hardly surprising that a bushfire started just outside the nearby township of Sunbury to the south of here. The hot and strong winds were pushing the fire away from here though towards the township – but I wasn’t aware of that early in the day.

So off we went to the orphans Christmas party - which is not far from David Holmgren's place (he of Permaculture fame). Anyway, my friends put on excellent food and they are always entertaining and have lots of interesting people turn up on a revolving basis, along with a core group of people of which I count myself and the editor lucky to be in. They're foodies and grow a lot of their own produce as they live in a huge greenhouse (seriously it is like an aircraft hangar). The turkey was superb and me being a committed vegetarian, I went back for seconds. The ham was also cooked to perfection and it had cloves and a fruit based sauce roasted onto the skin. Yum! For dessert there was a totally yummy trifle with candied figs and apples as well as a bit of meringue. Hopefully no one noticed my third helping... Needless to say dinner was a no show which was a sensible philosophy! Lunch was completed at about 4pm and everyone felt quite sluggish in the heat of the afternoon - but to my absolute surprise and delight they began filling water balloons by the hundreds and everyone got pelted with these things. It was total mayhem for about an hour and we all ended up soaked. Awesome! Best Christmas day ever.

I arrived home about midnight to learn about the fire just to the south of here which thanks to the outstanding efforts of the volunteers and aerial bombers had been extinguished. However, I also learned about the fire in the township of Wye River along the Great Ocean Road. I love that part of this continent and it is very sad to read of the complete devastation with now well over 100 houses destroyed. One of the problems in that part of the world is that people construct the houses in amongst the trees, yet they also don't construct the houses to withstand the inevitable bushfires. I doubt many of those houses are insured either. It is a total disaster for that community and the fires are not out yet - and possibly won't be for days to come.

On a more positive note, I wouldn't have driven back from my friends place except that heavy rains were predicted to hit here. It has been almost 3 months since any heavy rains were predicted so I came back here to make sure everything was OK. At about 4am, the rains began and they kept going until about 9am. I was awake for most of that time just making sure that I collected every single drop of the rainfall in the water tanks. By 9am, I'd gratefully received 32mm (1.25 inches) of rain and today the place is damp and cold, the fruit trees have drunk deeply and everything smells nice.

I'm honestly a bit nervous about January and February.

Cheers

Chris

Damo said...

That sounds like a pretty awesome spread for Xmas! Are those friends with the giant greenhouse the same ones you posted a photo of a while back (big shed with translucent wall panels and glass doors)? I loved the look of that place but got wondering what they did about insects? You could keep it closed up, but then your plants won't get pollinated. Anyway, just something I wondered.

Today was a scorcher in Wooli, I am missing my sensible Tasmanian weather! (although they had a 33 degree day on Xmas...)

Damo

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Ah yes, the editor sometimes sings to me that song of Little Boxes of ticky tacky! I understand the need for corporate sameness of identity, but sometimes I find that hallucination (nice choice of word too) a little bit suffocating. I look at the forest here and each individual tree has a story to tell as they are all very different and that is sort of how nature works. I wonder whether the mindless repetition of corporate sameness is some sort of rebellion against the sheer diversity of nature? Dunno, but I would find those Walden stores to be a little bit too contrived for my tastes.

I've never heard that usage of the word "Skiff" before in relation to snow. I first came across that word in the 1980's with the computer game "Ultima" which was a massive role playing game and the characters had skiffs which they could sail on but they were not much good against a serpent or some other such water monster. Nice to hear a positive confirmation of the Evil Step Sons story from a reputable source. What is a white out? It is good that he is still alive and kicking and up for a good cardio rehab and I hope that he takes it seriously.

Well your chickens are sensitive souls and a blown bulb would totally throw the program - I can see that. Your egg production is remarkable for your time of year. The 14 ladies here are producing between 6 and 7 eggs per day. The heat is knocking them around a bit, but I have run the sprinkler inside their pen for a bit just to cool the deep litter mulch down a bit. The chicken’s water tank is now full, thankfully.

Sorry to hear about those deaths due to the tornadoes. Throughout summer I have a background low level anxiety about the threat of bushfire - because it cannot be ignored. I just sort of live with it. It is only in the very inner city that a person is able to completely ignore the threat. It is a pity that much of our environmental policies originate from such areas… Nature can give us a good thumping at any time here without prior warning.

I do hope that you enjoyed the AA meeting? I had to laugh about picking up the wreckage - I left the Christmas do last night as some tears were freely flowing from a young lady who I hadn't met before and had possibly enjoyed a bit too much of the Christmas spirit! I rarely drink beyond a glass or two nowadays but in the far and now very distant past I recall that I was more of a happy drunk than a melancholy drunk. Friends are all too happy to recall past transgressions. I do hope that Chef John enjoys some solid snowboarding in the light of day?

Yes and the same to you too! Grievances must be aired and discussed at length otherwise the sores can't heal. Well, plenty of people don't subscribe to that theory, but too bad for them! Hehe! ;-)!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

I do hope that you had a lovely Christmas day too.

You know that is so true. I reckon we as a species are very arrogant and unconcerned about the things that actually matter in our youth. Certainly, I was young and oblivious to realities and scored a solid kick up the backside for my unconcern. Fortunately not everyone is that way.

The dramas are indeed less frequent, they're just bigger nowadays: Great Ocean Road fire: Number of homes lost in Christmas Day blaze rises to 116. That is almost one third of the houses in the town of Wye River.

I'm not sure, but you are probably correct about the sulphur. I do love the heat from the mustard greens and reds.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

The portable electric oven on the back porch really does work and I can enjoy fresh bread on even the hottest of days. Plus biscuits (how good are ginger biscuits?) too!

Would you believe, it is so cold here tonight - after yesterday - I now have the wood fire going and I'm wearing a jumper. All this hot weather must be making me soft!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

Lovely to hear from you and I do hope that your illness sorts itself out. I love your writing so please keep up the good work!

I don't know how I do it here either. I was out this afternoon with the jackhammer breaking up concrete and only finished at about 7pm though.

Glad to hear that you are enjoying your toasty wood stove. They produce the most beautiful heat. I should be stacking up the firewood sheds for the coming winter over the next few weeks. Thanks for the reminder!

Ha! No worries, contribute what you can is my motto and otherwise enjoy!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Thanks for that as I never would have guessed that you meant an oatcake. Out of interest, are porridge oats actually rolled oats? I don't know the difference. I purchase 20kg sacks of organic rolled oats for my muesli, biscuits and dog biscuits and they are indispensable in the kitchen.

Thanks to for the explanation. When I was young they used to tell me that Boxing Day was the day you could return the presents that you don't want or need to the retailers and this always sounded false to me. But then adults always used to lie to me about Santa Claus so I figured they had very little credibility to begin with. ;-)!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

He is very wise to hang onto those bits of timber for tool handles. Nice work on the part of your son too. I'm constantly repairing things around here - it makes you sharp! Just out of interest, does he oil those timber tool handles? I use tung oil for that purpose.

Oh. That's a tough job outside of a workshop. And nice to see that you have a manual gearbox too. Respect. I've done that job too with the car on car stands and certainly wouldn't have wanted to do it in the rain. The thing that annoyed me about the job was that the clutch dust fell onto me and got into my eye (despite the safety glasses) once I removed the gearbox from the bell housing. What a nuisance that was.

Sorry to hear about the lack of snow... I do hope the clutch is now replaced?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

I do like that thought - mobile and thrifty! Nice work. The plants are probably just as happy in the kitchen too. I noticed that the coffee and tea shrubs both looked a little bit dry a few days ago and I've been busily watering them ever since. I keep forgetting that low care does not equal no care! ;-)!

Seriously, I doubt that the kid will recover. He may go onto to lead an interesting life though as we do live in interesting times. It honestly made me sad to see it, but the "parent police" (I just made that up) would totally break me if I happened to suggest to them that they should ease off the kid a bit. It is nice to hear that the collie found a gentle home. I never yell at the animals at all, but they will be punished if they do the wrong thing - like a killing a chicken for example.

Your donut cutter is a very clever device. I use a similar thing here for cutting eggs into slices - except that it uses highly strung wires to produce even slices of eggs. I'm still a bit horrified that fast food places buy eggs in some sort of artificial roll... Yuck.

You sound as if you are having a most enjoyable Christmas. I hope you also scored some excellent presents. The rain here was the best present that I could ask for.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

Thank you for the outstanding information about the tea camellia's. You are lucky to have such cold hardy varieties and I'll use your information to keep a look out here for them.

Sorry to read about the deaths from those tornadoes. I am glad that you are receiving some solid rain - although you have had quite a lot in the past year. How is the ground water table going in your part of the world? Sometimes it can rise in such years and I recall one memorable year 2010, where a natural spring popped up in the middle of the chicken enclosure. The poor chickens didn't know what to make of that!

Yeah, how good are thunderstorms? When the wind blows from the west, they run along the valley (and miss this elevated property here) and I can watch them for hours and feel the sometimes hot and sometimes cold winds intersecting. And the light and sound show is amazing. When they're over head and a close strike blows up my modem (conduction through the Yagi antenna) that's a whole 'nother story...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

Fair enough. The seeds are really easy to collect in autumn from your best producing and tasting plants too, so no stress - you have to start with seedling plants. That's life.

It is complex and I reckon it is certainly one of the more complex tasks that I have undertaken. And each year and season I learn more. I reckon about 10 years of learning and experience is required before you could adequately feed yourself. Certainly that time involves a whole lot of mistakes too! I could tell you some shockers. Like two years ago just before it didn't rain for 5 months in a row, we lost 25,000 litres of water through an act of sheer stupidity. By the time March rolled around, I was down to about 24,000 litres of water in reserve - and that was it.

I don't have a clue and hey, we're not cool! Although I'm suspecting that we might be doing a Stephen Bradbury as many of my peers seem to me becoming less cool as time goes on, whilst we quietly keep going about things. So go figure that one out! Hehe! ;-)!

Certainly some of my friends stake their tomatoes, but I have so many projects to do here that I might just leave them form a bush this year and see what happens? I don't actually know despite growing this variety for about 4 years now.

Yummo for the crayfish - you are spoiled rotten in that part of the world for seafood. Port Phillip Bay produces copious quantities of mussels which are really nice, but crayfish is like taking it to 11! Yum!

I reckon you nailed it. Of course it is hypocritical, but then I use fossil fuels to bring back huge quantities of manure here. I certainly couldn't do that by ox and cart (dray). I rarely travel far these days and always try and use public transport. I'll tell you a story and then you can tell me what you reckon: I was speaking to a local guy a while - as a side note, he really annoys me - and he was telling me that he was writing a letter to the Greens about limiting Australia's carbon emissions, whilst he was on an aircraft from Melbourne to Hobart. And he reckons that the letter was really well received too. Living consciously means exactly what it says and perhaps the ideal situation may be - and please feel free to discuss this as I have no fixed opinion in the matter - to understand the hypocrisy for what it is and not pretend that it is otherwise. Dunno, but I'm interested in discussing the matter. Humans are really part of nature, we're not separate from it and I think that may be the core of where we are going off the rails. Anyway, I reckon long haul trips will be a thing of the past or an affectation of only the very wealthy in the decades to come. Dunno though.

Northern NSW is a beautiful part of the world and I hope that you had a nice time.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

Yeah, they're the same people. They're meant to be on Grand Designs Australia, but the project is never finished (fair enough too) so I'll give everyone a heads up if it ever goes to air. The place is amazing and compared to here the plant growth is turbo-charged.

Good thought. They do have a lot more work involved with their plants than I do and we talked about that yesterday. Any artificial environment is far more work than a natural environment which is inherently more complex. There are huge screens and windows which open on either side of the massive shed and the insects can come and go. I was trying to talk them out of a bee hive in there yesterday as I reckon there may be too many bees and that could be a hassle for humans... The birds get into the shed too. But yeah, pests and diseases make it more work than here - on the other hand they get more yields than I could ever dream of. They had fresh tomatoes ready to eat yesterday and all my lot have is flowers with no fruit this side of February.

Mate, it was a killer weather down here yesterday but fortunately this morning the heavens opened and the rain dumped down - it even rained tonight too.

Yes, the west and north west coast of Tasmania are very special environments - with few downsides other than economic ones.

Cheers

Chris

margfh said...

Hi Chris,
Sounds like a lovely Christmas celebration. Have just finished up with Christmas #3 yesterday and while all were fun it'll be good to get back to normal. It would be strange for us here in the Midwest to experience weather like yours on Christmas. People are commenting here how it doesn't seem like Christmas due to the warm weather and rain rather than snow.

@Damo

I hear you about the travel dilemma. I made the decision not to fly about five years ago unless it was an emergency. Lucky for me that almost all of my family is within two hours travel though. Sometimes circumstances lead to a few compromises though. Shortly after I made this decision my sister took me for a trip to visit a good friend in Washington State. We went by train (two days) on the way out but she, or me too for that matter, didn't have the time to travel back by train and as she was paying for the trip we did end up flying back.

@Lew

I have a very large family which has traditionally celebrated on Christmas Eve. There are between 35 to 50 in attendance and the issue of gifts (too many) comes up every year. We finally got them down to a manageable level. Some of us decided we should have the Festivus pole and airing of grievances though we agreed none would be directed at a family member. Politicians and celebrities were fair game. Trump was the object of many of the grievances. Feats of strength followed.

Belated Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Happy Holidays to all.

Margaret

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris!

Those poor people in Wye River. Thanks for the link; there are great photos with it. That great Ocean Road must have been quite a feat of construction. It's really scary! Do many people where you are not insure their houses? Most everyone seems to around here. You have no choice if the bank still owns it.

So - the orphans are those who either have no family in the area to spend Christmas with, or who perhaps prefer more congenial company (depending on one's family)?

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Inge - Thanks for the explanation of Boxing Day. Probably no relation to the "box room" I see referenced so much in Victorian literature. That, I think, was for the storage of steamer trunks, and such. I am currently reading "Mrs. Wolf and the Servants; An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury." (Light, 2008.) Interesting read.

@ Pam - Don't know how much the oven element is going to cost to replace. It's a pretty easy fix that even I can handle. Two screws and yank the whole thing out. We still have a family run appliance store in Centralia, and I'll just haul it in. Either they will have one in stock, can order one, or might be able to tell me where to find one. Yeah, I have one stove burner out. Brother Bob the Bachelor Farmer "fixed" it. Now it has one temperature ... volcanic :-). I never use it. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Orphans Christmas Day ... at first I thought it might be somewhere where you could pick up an orphan to do the heaving lifting, about the place. :-). Then it dawned on me that it was for people who, for one reason or another, didn't have family close at hand to celebrate with. LOL. I always refer to myself as an orphan, or, almost an orphan (since I have a brother I'm estranged from.) I'm always quit cheery about it, which throws people. No obligations. Heaven.

A white out is when the snow comes down to thick and fast that you can't see beyond the end of your nose.

Well, Chef John hit the slopes and managed to injure a hip. Don't think it's too bad. I'll see him, today. We'll see. And, on his last run, too.

Oh, the Meeting was fine. Much to my surprise, about 20 people turned out. Just above average. It was a bit icy up on my hill, but once I got down lower, not much of a problem. I'm a bit night blind, too. And, I always worry about hitting a deer, at night.

Presents were fine. Got a lot of different kinds of chocolate. Chocolate and raspberry ... chocolate and orange. Totally ODed on the stuff, last night. I am such an addict :-). Gave me a headache and I tossed and turned, far into the night. Queasy stomach. When will I learn? :-). Also, some very nice teas.

We have fresh water crayfish, here. I've been to a few crayfish feeds, in my time. They can get quit large, but not as large as lobster. There's supposed to be some in the creek, behind my place. I can still remember when one glommed onto a cousin of mine. Got her right between the thumb and index finger. Lots of howling, tears and brandishing of pliers to break the grip.
Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Pam - PS: Well, my chickens have a light on a timer, for both a bit of heat and light. So they get 15 hours, a day. They get extra rolled oats and sunflower seeds, every day. And, the addition of banana peel, yogurt and a bit of grit and oyster shell every other day. Apple cider vinegar in their water, every once in awhile. They don't seem very interested in greens, strangely enough. They like trimmings from apples and tomatoes. Pumpkin or squash innards. And, 8 of my hens are still pretty young. Right at the peak of their productive lives. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

Thanks, it was a lot of fun and the respite from the heat was very welcome. By Christmas #3, I'd be totally exhausted and so I salute your levels of endurance! :-)!

Your comments about the unseasonable warmth are being echoed all about the place, and to be honest the reports are a bit of a worry. Christmas is always strange down here because of the heat, I mean Santa would keel over from heat exhaustion within minutes of arriving on the continent and reindeer would be worse than useless. However, this is the first Christmas day that I can recall that bush fires were a serious risk and a very real problem for people down in this part of the world. My gut feel is that things have changed here - and not for the better.

116 houses were lost - which is nearly one third of that township. Rather than repeating myself over and over again, I'll put a comment below to "everyone" with links to the stories and photos.

Damo has raised an interesting question as it is one that I wonder about too.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Oh yeah, it is not good and I know people who own property in that town and at least nobody perished in the inferno. 116 houses were lost and I'll post a comment to "everyone" down below with links to photos and stories.

The Great Ocean Road is an amazing piece of engineering. It was constructed during the Great Depression by sustenance workers and they favoured employing returned veterans from World War 1. Some of the cuttings in the road are a true marvel as the mountains (Otway Ranges) that rise up behind the surf are sheer and not far from vertical in parts. Apparently a lot of explosives were used in the construction process - that would have been fun, but then I'm a boy at heart! :-)!

The road followed an old ship wrecked sailors walking trail along the coast line. Back in the day, a lot of ships were wrecked due to the rough and shallow seas and many were driven on to the many rock shelves. It is very impressive to drive along and enjoy the stunning scenery. The ocean depth between Victoria and the massive Island of Tasmania is rarely deeper than 30m (100 foot).

Also because the Otway mountain ranges stick out into the roaring forties (latitude) they contain the wettest spot in the state which receives an annual rainfall of something like 100 inches per year on average. The farmers produce a lot of dairy in those hills and the remnant forests are like walking back in time to an ancient Gondwana forest. Most of those ancient trees happily grow here too and I'm growing many of them here.

Holiday houses are very hard to insure down here due to the lack of a permanent occupancy and the insurance companies get all wierded out by that. When Black Saturday ripped through the Kinglake ranges in 2009 only 50% of the houses were insured and it flushed all sorts of people out of the forests. I doubt that much has changed in the meantime. Insurance is not compulsory and people try to save money where they can.

I read a quote from a US author who said they liked their family being close and then went on to define close as meaning at least 3 states away... Just sayin...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

A couple of orphans who can do heavy lifting would be sort of very handy here! Of course people can get a bit weirded out by that, but I always worked from about the age of 12 and was reasonably independent - not that there was any cash freely arriving from any other direction. ;-)!

Mate, I hear you, as I have two sisters whom I'm estranged from - one of whom was a junkie when I last met her - and who knows who my father was. The editors parents died just after we were married which was a very difficult time. Anyway, family can be overrated, so like you I'm fairly cheerful about that fact and I start to yawn when people go into the minutiae of their own family problems. Exactly, minimal obligations is the order of the day. You know, some people get really down when I tell them that story and I have to console them and tell them that you play the hand that you are dealt - it is as simple as that. Often I suspect they are feeling sorry for what could be for themselves, and not what is actually for them - but then I am a cynic... ;-)! I hear you, man!

Oh, that's not a good situation. It sounds sort of like the heavy fogs that sometimes descend on the mountain range here and you can only see a couple of feet ahead of you. Those are dangerous times and you have to know the lay of the land intuitively.

No! Poor Chef John, best wishes for a speedy recovery. I would have assumed that by the last run his joints and muscles would be warmed up nicely. I'm sensing that there may be a story in there about his final run and recklessness - but I could be totally off track too, and apologies if I am?

Stay safe. Yeah a deer and your Ranger are not a good chance encounter. I suspect the three of you will come off not so well in that encounter. I've noticed that some new cars these days use really bright blue based lights and whilst that is nice and safe for them, it makes it very hard for oncoming traffic to see anything else. I reckon our eyes evolved to cope with yellow based lights rather than those newer blue based lights... Nice to hear that the meeting was fine and well attended. At night here if I have to drive, it is at a very slow speed.

Well, everyone has a weakness and chocolate is good! Yum! I once visited the Cadbury Chocolate factory down in Hobart, Tasmania and they make really yummy chocolate and it was like visiting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for me. And at the end of the tour they dump you in a seconds shop where you can buy up awesome stuff. Oh it was good and there were samples provided at every stage in the manufacturing process. Yum! Oh, you've completely side-tracked me with your stories of chocolate binges! Enjoy your queasy stomach too, it was well earned! Hehe! :-)! Oh, I like the European stuff too, like Lindt balls or Ferrero Rocher too. Mmmm, Chocolate! Carob grows well here, but let’s be honest, it is not the same... I can tell you a funny story about cocoa leaves in Peru too! Very silly.

Enjoy your teas, but they're not chocolate are they? Hehe!!!! Yum! Do you enjoy Earl Grey, I'm quite fond of that tea?

Yeah, crayfish is nice, but as you say, it is no lobster. Thanks for the funny mental image too. I'll bet after the screaming and cusses died down, the laughs began? I do hope that she can see the funny side of that story now?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi everyone,

Just a bit of an update on the Wye River fire which is still burning: Great Ocean Road fire: Residents begin to return home to assess damage from Christmas Day fire

And photos can be found here: Great Ocean Road fire: The devastation in pictures

Our thoughts go out to all of the people affected by the fire.

Chris

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

Thanks for more on the fire. I can't figure out how a place that gets so much rainfall can burn so well? The extra heat of this year? It is making me as queasy as Lew's chocolates as we have always felt quite secure from wildfires here as it is such a naturally damp place - the whole fall/early winter has had about 80% - 100% humidity (Inge?) - try drying laundry outside.

I have the sweetest sister in the world. I also have a brother who has beern estranged from all of the rest of us for many years. It takes all kinds and I reckon there's a reason for it.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Lew:

It was a house rule that all cats had to be in by dark.

Like your cousin's crayfish, my son, when young, had an issue with Mother Nature. He was holding a large, wild skink and I told him that I had heard that they bite and he said: "No, they don't, Mom - see?" And held it up near his head where it grabbed his ear and, by golly, we had a hard time getting it off. A lizard earring!

Thanks for the chicken info.

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Well, yes. Living alone and liking it. Unattached and unconnected. Not much answerable to anyone. Don't have to spend inordinate and tedious amounts of time explaining my quirks and foibles to anyone. The "undomesticated male." Heaven! Sometimes, I have a hard time convincing some people that I'm happy as a clam. Usually, women. Sorry ladies, but it's mostly true. They seem to think I'm "putting up a brave front", or something. My landlord's hundred year old mother, when she was alive, ALWAYS used to ask me if I wan't lonely, out here. Well, no. She never looked entirely convinced. Guys seem to "get" it and even look a little envious, at times. That being said, I'm also aware that women (sweeping generalization) are a civilizing influence. We really saw it, in the settling of our West. Women pushed for the establishment of schools, churches, libraries, museums, etc. etc..

Went to Chef John's, yesterday, and he is a mess. Popping lots of ibuprofen and partaking of other less traditional pain relievers. :-). Lots of soaks in his fancy hot tub. And, he took a bit of a slide down his carpeted stairs to make matters worse. Well, he explained in great detail what went wrong with his last run, but since skiing and snowboarding are completely beyond me, I don't know what went wrong. We picked through the wreckage of his Christmas Eve "do." I ate way too much.

He has quit a bit of snow on the ground, at his place, which surprised me. Two of the "trees" that he had up were actually limbs from plum and pear trees ... that have now thrown out blossoms among the ornaments. Quit pretty. I absolutely forbad him to give me gifts, but I took him some sugar cookies to sample ("Too overdone, overworked dough, tastes more like a sweet pastry," etc. etc. Prat. He did send me home with a big ham bone with lots of meat on it. Sandwiches and soup! And his three hounds sent Beau three cans of high end dog food and a big box of biscuits. Well, I guess if it's for Beau, and not for me, that's fine :-).

Yeah, white outs can be terrifying. I remember once, when I was working in Olympia, I had to drive home at night through a white out. I never got out of second gear. Luckily, I knew the road like the back of my hand. And here, along the freeways, they have bumps in the road ... called "turtles." So, I'd drift slowly left, until I felt the thump, thump, thump of the turtles and then drift slowly right until I was aware of them, again. Kept me in my lane, all the way home.

It was trying to snow when I took care of the chickens, this morning. Then it really started coming down. Hard for about an hour, but didn't stick. We do have snow in the forecast, on and off, for the next week. The chickens slacked off toward the end of the week, so I ended up with the usual 20 or more, but less than two dozen eggs, for the week. A solid 2 dozen a week would make me happy. The chickens could care less. I suppose I could run them through a wringer, but I seem to remember a story about a goose and a golden egg ... which makes me hesitate :-).

I feel so sorry for those people who lost their homes in the brush fires. How do you pick up the threads of your life after something like that? A round of tornados in Texas with loss of life and homes destroyed. A sad beginning of the year, all around. Lew