Monday, 13 November 2017

Decline of Western Civilization, Part I: Dishwashers

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

A couple of decades ago some mates owned a rather amusingly titled video: The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II: The Metal Years. The film was apparently a documentary about heavy metal music. I never watched the film, or even discovered what Part I was all about. However, the amusing title, of an otherwise serious documentary video about heavy metal music caught my imagination.
Back in those days, there was no Internet. Therefore you couldn't just type a question into an internet search engine and get a reply from a database. Nope, before the internet, a person was left with mysteries such as: What was The Decline of Western Civilization, Part I; all about? It seems like a rather important question to be left hanging in the air all uncertain and stuff. Back then, people learned to live their lives carrying around these little mysteries.

Anyway, for all I know, Part I of the documentary series, may have been a serious documentary about the banking industry. The documentary may have explored the darker sides of Collateralized Debt Obligation's (financial instruments employed by the banking industry and which had such a large role to play in the 2008 Global Financial Crisis). 

Given that Part II covered the topic of heavy metal music, then perhaps Part I of the series was most likely to have had a music theme. On a positive note for the film makers, they neatly avoided the complexities of thinking about CDO's and the darker sides of the banking industry.

Hmm. Music theme. Well if I had to vote for a particular style of music that may positively point towards the Decline of Western Civilization, then I feel compelled to vote for the genre of "Progressive Rock". It is not that I have any particular issue with that genre, it is just that the other day I was in the local supermarket. Over the audio system, someone had decided to play a recording from the progressive rock band The Alan Parson's Project. The band were singing their hit from the 1970's: "Eye in sky". I imagine that management felt that such songs were soothing? Anyway, I didn't feel particularly soothed. Frankly I was left wondering whether the song was a subtle reference to the many hidden cameras on the ceiling of the establishment? Who knows. I'd be much more comfortable if management decided to play, say, Sydney metal-core band: Polaris; with their song Dusk to Day, which is a lyrical account (heavy metal style of course) about one of the band members painful struggles with insomnia. Insomnia being a more relevant concern to a lot of people these days than  eye's in the sky (although drones are becoming cheaper and more available).

From time to time, I amuse myself with attempts to imagine the most absurd title for the unknown Part I of the documentary series. It is a fun game and can keep me amused for hours. As an amusing offering, I nominate: dishwashers (the automatic machine type, not the grumpy human type).

A while back someone asked me why I don't have a dishwasher. Being a bit of a smarty pants, I replied, we do have a dishwasher - It is called Chris. That reply did not appear to satisfy the persons curiosity, so I pulled out "fluffy non-dishwasher-machine owning excuse, number six" and said: "Look mate. It's just the solar power system here can't run one. And it's a bit of hassle, but, you know, we live with that hassle". And that was that, excuse number six is a very big gun and it always brings positive results as the questions stop, and people sort of feel sorry for the editor and I.

Now, of course the solar power system can run a dishwasher. I just don't want to install and run a dishwasher. To me those machines appear to be an inordinately expensive and polluting way to do a really simple task. Plus you can't put crystal etc in the dishwasher. To quote the disaster film Sharknado: Nuff Said!

Here is a batch of dishes that I washed up by hand in the kitchen sink this morning:
Washing up this lot by hand must have taken me at least two minutes
I've been washing up (and cooking and cleaning) since about the age of twelve. You see, my mum was a single mum, and so she was pretty busy. At that young age, one sad evening I casually sauntered into the kitchen and perhaps arrogantly dumped my soiled plates on the kitchen bench after dinner. It was at that point that I made the serious "fluffy error" of not being fast enough on my exit strategy. I got nabbed by my mum and frogmarched back towards the kitchen sink. Then after a very brief lesson, I found myself thenceforth washing dishes.

I've heard stories about being too busy to wash up dishes by hand, but as you can see in the story of my younger self above, that simply doesn't match my own experience.

Back in those days, actual soap was used in the dish washing process. A normal bar of soap was placed in a wire cage with a steel handle. To create froth in the hot water, the cage was vigorously shaken for only a few moments. Alert readers will realise that this is a form of exercise! Anyway, in no time at all the water was full to bursting with bubbles and froth. With the hot soapy water available, I got to the task at hand of washing the evenings dishes and have never looked back.

In millennia to come, learned people may ponder the various reasons for the Decline of Western Civilisation and maybe one of those learned people may remark to their peers: "Here are the words of some gentleman, who writes that something called dishwashers were responsible". And if they're really smart then someone else may reply: "What is this dreaded dishwasher thing?"

It has been a hot and humid week and on some mornings fog has completely filled the valley
The weather has been hot and humid this week. The heat combined with the high humidity has meant that the orchard has grown a lot in only a single week. Late spring is always an exciting time of the year for plant growth.
The view of the house and the sunny orchard from the bottom of the paddock
The many rhododendrons surrounding the shady orchard are producing a beautiful mass display of flowers
The editor and I set ourselves the task this week of completing the excavations and structure for the new strawberry terrace. We didn't quite achieve that goal, but the strawberry enclosure and terrace is looking really good and over the next few days we'll begin the task of planting out another maybe 140 strawberry runners. Have I mentioned that we really like strawberries?

The first days excavations created another 4m (13.2ft) of terrace into the side of the hill.
The first days excavations created another 4m (13.2ft) of terrace into the side of the hill
The second day of excavations completed that part of the job as we created a further 3m (9.9ft) of terrace.
The second day of excavations completed that part of the job as we created a further 3m (9.9ft) of terrace
Observant readers will note in the above photo that our trusty timber stair-making-form-work makes a special guest appearance. Also, you should be able to see that the soil which was excavated over the couple of days has been used to create the beginnings of yet another terrace above this strawberry terrace. We hope to plant table grape vines on that terrace sometime in late autumn next year.

Later that afternoon, we excavated soil for the path and stair form-work, and then poured the first  concrete step.
The existing path was widened and the first of two concrete steps was poured
After yet another days of hot work, the remaining seven treated pine fence posts for the strawberry enclosure were cemented into the ground. And, the second step leading up to that terrace was also poured. It is looking pretty good. Oh yeah, the door to the enclosure was also hung on one of the posts. The door came from the local tip shop. Why anyone would throw out perfectly good security doors is a mystery to me.
The second concrete step was poured and the remaining seven posts for the strawberry enclosure were set in the ground
In the photo above, you can see that the series of terraces are in a very good location because the plant growth in the more established blackberry enclosure and terrace has been explosive in the past few weeks!

In the photos above, it is hard to see how the excavated soil from the strawberry terrace was used to begin the process of constructing yet another future terrace for table grapes above the strawberry terrace. So the next photo gives a clear idea of just how much soil has been moved by hand and compacted by foot over this past week.
Even Mr Poopy approves of the beginning stages of construction for the future table grape terrace
As an unrelated side note, Mr Poopy is now on a serious diet which involves controlling his intake of food. His love of all things food was finally beginning to take a toll on his health. Putting him on a diet is not an easy task for a dog that is an expert forager, but hopefully forcing him to forage for his additional snacks will increase the amount of activity that he does. He is a very nice, but exceptionally lazy dog.

The serious increase in heat this week has brought out the insects. During the day, the hum and buzz from the gardens and orchard is quite loud and I have for the moment deftly avoided being stung. At night the various insects sing their night time summer chorus. All that life is a very soothing sound.

The air about the farm is full of moths and butterflies during both the night and the day:
The nighttime is ruled by the Bogong moths which are attracted to the house lights and gardens. They are one meaty moth (and edible too, although I have not tried this as apparently they taste like 'moth')!
During the day, moths and butterflies enjoy the many flowers
The editor rediscovered a forgotten experiment involving Japanese maple seeds! We had placed a few seeds for those plants into one of the raised vegetable beds, and then simply forgot about them. Then the other day, the editor discovered about a dozen seedlings all happily growing without any assistance - or watering - on our part!
A dozen forgotten Japanese maple seedlings were discovered in a raised garden bed
It is really hard to know this week where to start with the late spring flower photos, however below is a small sample:
Gazania's are really hardy and cheery!
A purple Granny's Bonnet is found deep in among a Southern Wormwood and Elderberry
This bush rose smells even more beautiful than it looks
Californian poppies with a background of Catmint
More Gazania's and Geraniums
Nasturtiums are very hardy to heat - and a toothy salad vegetable

The temperature outside now at about 8.45pm is 19’C (66’F). So far this year there has been 761.2mm (30.0 inches) which is more than last week’s total of 755.2mm (29.7 inches).

Monday, 6 November 2017

Ten to One

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

I’ve never understood the act of smoking. Cigarettes were for other folks.

I’ve known quite a lot of people over the years who smoked and their complex experiences with that activity were a salient lesson which I have been careful not to repeat. The most annoying smokers that I have experienced were my older sisters. Every school holidays whilst my mother was at work, the older sisters were in charge of the household, and so they smoked inside the house. Of course, they weren’t meant to be smoking inside the house (or anywhere else for that matter), so when the clock ticked over to about 3pm, there was a mad panic to open every window in the house and air the cigarette smoke out of the house. This presented logistical problems during winter as the house became unfathomably cold.

Of course, the older sisters thought that by smoking they were cool. I knew that they were uncool because they smoked, which meant that I was cool merely by not joining in. Mind you, I probably wasn’t cool because who is cool at that age? Anyway, smoking habits aside, the older sisters used to also annoy me by playing the album colloquially known down under as: Ten to One, by the Australian band: Midnight Oil. I hated the album and the band.

With the windows of the house fully opened in the depths of winter, the stereo loudly blaring the sounds of Midnight Oil, and the in delicate fumes of cigarette smoke leaving the building, I sort of had nowhere to hide. With nowhere to hide and nothing better to do, I began listening to the music and lyrics of the band. It wasn’t long (well maybe upon reflection it was a couple of hundred repeats of the album) before I started enjoying the music. The album was revealed to me as the pure genius that it was, in an early Australian punk band sort of way.

“Conquistador of Mexico, the Zulu and the Navaho
The Belgians in the Congo short memory
Plantation in Virginia, the Raj in British India
The deadline in South Africa short memory
The story of El Salvador, the silence of Hiroshima
Destruction of Cambodia short memory”

On Saturday night, the editor and I headed out to visit some friends. On route over on the northern side of the mountain range, we witnessed a traffic jam. There were cars everywhere, all pointing in one direction. Fortunately, we were travelling in the other direction and the traffic jam was merely a point of interest along our journey. You have to understand, other than the very strange leaf change tourism time of year (late autumn), it is a really weird thing to see a traffic jam here. It just doesn’t happen for the simple fact that there are not that many people living in this rural area.

All those vehicles in the traffic jam were heading towards Hanging Rock where the band Midnight Oil were performing.

“The sight of hotels by the Nile, the designated Hilton style
With running water specially bought short memory
A smallish man Afghanistan, a watch dog in a nervous land
They're only there to lend a hand short memory
Wake up in sweat at dead of night
And in the tents new rifles hey short memory”

Observing the traffic jam that evening held a certain grim irony for me. You see I recall the lead singer of the band, Mr Peter Garrett, on one warm sweaty evening during my misspent youth exhorting to the crowd at the Forum Theatre in Melbourne, to “get out of your (a naughty word that rhymes with the word trucking) cars!” It was an impassioned call from a smart bloke. And he is a smart bloke as I believe he holds a law degree and was at one time voted into Federal politics and even (from memory) appointed as a minister of the Federal government in the role of the Environment (and later the Arts) portfolio. Long time blog readers may also recall that he is a skillful dancer.

Yet seeing all those cars in the traffic jam and on their way to the performance on Saturday night, I don’t reckon his impassioned call all those years ago, amounted to much. But then, I don’t understand why people would want to smoke either, so lots of things are a mystery to me.

“If you read the history books you'll see the same things happen again and again
Repeat repeat short memory they've all got it
When are we going to play it again
Got a short, got a short, got a short, got a short
They've got a short must have a short they've got a short aah
Short memory, they've got a.”

In last week’s blog I mentioned that this year we had not put away any firewood for future years. In a strange coincidence some guys that I have known for many years turned up out of the blue and offered to help us with working the forest. Long term readers will recall that despite the long working relationship with these tree dudes, things have not always been smooth. Nowadays, we haggle the price on the spot. Haggling is a rarely practiced art form in First World countries and it often involves that dirty word: Compromise. I call compromise a dirty word, because not many people appear to know how to compromise these days as they appear to want what they want! Anyway, in this instance compromise in the haggling process meant that I felt that I’d overpaid, the tree dudes felt that they were underpaid, the job got done, future plans were made, and everyone was happy, more or less.
The tree dudes helped with our firewood
The editor and I then had to spend two days cleaning up the mess that the tree dudes had made. The neat wood pile in the photo above is the result of all our work.

I've also continued to mow the farm. Most people consider that mowing a farm is a job for a ride on mower or a tractor, but in our case we use a small Honda push mower. I get a lot of walking exercise, but on such a steep slope, it is the safest way to do the job. I've completed about 30% to 40% of that job.
The farm gets mowed by hand and the job is now about 30% to 40% complete
Spring Vegetable Update
Pictures can tell a thousand words. Observant readers may note that I plant vegetables very closely together. Here are two of the many raised garden beds:
A raised bed of perennial rocket, and friends
A raised bed of various lettuce varieties as well as a green mustard
Spring Fruit Update
Pictures can tell a thousand words. The many fruit trees appear to be producing well. Here are some of them:
Apricots are in profusion!

Quince trees are producing their first crop this year
It looks like it may be a good season for apples
Asian pears are still small but plentiful on the trees
European pears are much slower growing than their Asian compatriots and this is their first year of fruiting
And it wouldn't be a Fernglade Farm blog without sharing some of the huge collection of spring flowers from about the farm:
Lavender enjoys the warmer spring weather
How good are these Gazinia's?
We have a small collection of Granny's Bonnet's and they readily hybridise
The Rhododendron's get larger and more prolific every year
The herb garden is looking good
It's Iris time!
After a few years Irises tend to clump and produce multiple flowers
One of the local ferns produces an minor oddity. It is the mother shield fern, and a new plant forms on some of the frond tips. When the end of the frond reaches the ground, the new plant forms roots and gets established in that spot. Thus they walk across the landscape!
A mother shield fern produces a new plant on the end of a frond
The final word should go to Midnight Oil for their very excellent song: Short Memory

"Short memory, must have a, short memory"

The temperature outside now at about 10.00pm (serious Internet problems this evening!) is 7’C (44’F). So far this year there has been 755.2mm (29.7 inches) which is more than last week’s total of 738.4mm (29.1 inches).