Monday, 30 November 2009


The garden has been a bit depressing lately,  after the hot dry weather and my absence,  but I have been back at dealing with the resurrection and here it is....  Chinese greens... obviously brassicas,  and germinating as we watch...

... okra, beginning to grow....

... a sunflower seed with it's seed coat still attached...

... and one of the more wondrous plants... this is a zucchini plant,  having had the top eaten off by earwigs, but hanging in there, and producing new leaves....

... a leek flower (must be November!)....

... and an artichoke flower.

This is another artichole flower that is no open yet... see the tiny purple petals inside the flower... how amazing is this!

On my way around the garden today,  I found this plant trying its best to grow... it had lost all of its leaves,  but after this last half an inch of rain, there is action... tiny leaves all over the place...

...and these are the tiny leaves that have appeared on the plant since the rain!

.. and melaleuca flowers....  the rain (even a tiny amount) is so good!

This is the big kurrajong tree that is near the house.  It is on the northern side of the house and so is quite problem during the winter... it shades the water heater!   The bits and pieces that are in the tree were built by a series of my children....  and so I have a tree house...  made of wood and iron and rather primitive,   but a tree house, nevertheless.... with a ladder for access...

Parts of it may need to go before next winter... in order that we have hot water during the colder months!

I love this flower... a climbing rose that I planted a couple of years ago...  it has survived, and produces beautiful flowers (single petal arrangement) even when the weather is at its worst!   One of my favourites...

... and of course the jasmine... this was planted long before I lived here... it is right beside the outdoor toilet (that is no longer connected to the sewer) and I imagine that the perfume was supposed to camouflage the odour of that toilet...  
Do we even have to think of these issues these days?  Many people buy chemical sprays from the store to de-odorise the toilet that flushes any trace of biological material away... how remote, or disassociated,  can we become from the real world?

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Stormy weather

John and I had to go to Adelaide again today.  The weather prediction was for rain, but as we left, having had 1mm overnight,  the sun was shining and the wind was blowing.

By the time we got to Adelaide, it was stormy and raining "cats and dogs."

All day,  as we sat in various meetings and so on,  I was wondering whether the garden was being inundated with rain or just blown away...

We left the city to drive home, again through driving rain and still wondering whether we had had any at all at home.

Well,  the guage says 8.5mm,  the mess over the roads indicates that we have had a lot of wind, and the electricity is off!  
John is reading the newspaper by candle light....

...but I am using the computer...  writing this blog....

... with my laptop and my telstra wireless modem with its flashing blue light!

Friday, 27 November 2009


I didn't have a chance to write a post here yesterday because we (John and I) drove to Adelaide to do our errands.  Adelaide is about 100km away, and with the traffic,  one can assume that it will take about an our and 20 minutes at least to get there.... and at least $25 worth of petrol,  so of course we do all of our errands on a single day.   Yesterday, for a variety of reasons was the day!
I did get everything done that I'd planned,  and my "grocery stop" was at Gaganos Bros. in Hindmarsh.  This is a wholesale grocery warehouse that has always specialised in mediterranean ingredients and tools (including everything for making wine and beer) and which has in recent years begun to cater to people of other nationalities.
I hadn't been there for several months...  I usually shop for fresh and local ingredients.  However, yesterday I found some new items on a shelf catering for "Mexican and South American" items.... and here is what I found...

Hominy, salsa, salsa verde, corn meal to make masa.    I also bought some organic (and unflavoured) corn chips so that we can have nachos for dinner tonight.   I'll have to go to the bottle shop to see if there is any tequila (for margaritas)... Friday pizza night may be "nacho night" for a while!

That salsa has chunks and no thickening like tomato sauce (ketchup)....

... and it's made in Mexico.

In fact,  the first thing that caught my eye was this tin of hominy.  I can now make pozole!

... and this is made in Texas.  It is the same brand that I could buy in California in tins,  though they don't have the "fresh" stuff in the vacuum packs...  maybe soon!

Then I began to look for masa...  I didn't find any brand that I recognised,  but I did find this... it's a little more finely ground, but I will try it for making tortillas tonight...  quesadillas, here we come!

... and it is made in Colombia.  (This reminded me of Jose in Santa Cruz.)

This morning I have been out to water the baby plants and the patches where I have planted seeds.  This is the last of the cucumber plants that I put in.  The earwigs haven't found this one, apparently.

This is the last of the zuccini plants....

I don't know yet whether it will survive

The tomatoes and other vegetables survive, and I haven't put the shade cloth over them again today.  It is removable, and I put it back whenever I think the day will be too hot,  but we are expecting about 30C today, and a cooler change this afternoon... with rain tomorrow... maybe!!!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Game Theory

Yesterday, or in fact last night to be exact, the coalition of conservative parties in our parliament had a meeting at which they have agreed,  by a close margin to support legislation (which includes a cap  and trade system) that might reduce emissions by 5% by 2020.  There are so many levels at which one can criticise this strategy.
First of all,  the cap and trade mechanism allows carbon dioxide production by the biggest polluters to continue as long as there are permits to buy... once they have used up all of their "free" allowances that they have been given, they can buy further permits from others.
The target of a 5% reduction from 2000 levels, is so low that the effect on climate change will be negligible.
The carbon dioxide level is already above 380 parts per million, while 350ppm is thought to be the highest safe level for life on the planet.... for that is what we are risking.

There have been predictions of climate change and global warming for many years.  Since Al Gore's movie, there has been significantly greater awareness of the effect that increased carbon dioxide is having on climate and all of its variables.  Predictions are becoming more and more accurate and with that,  more intimidating.   The "business as usual" graphs now show that we will have a significant increase in global temperature in a relatively few years.  And carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.
The consequences of this have been described by many people...  increasing temperatures and reduced rainfall,  rising sea level and inundation of low-lying land, more storms and bushfires and more chaotic weather, particularly where climate is moderated by ocean currents as these are expected to be disrupted also.
There is considerable evidence to support these hypotheses.  As with any other theory, there is no such thing as "scientific proof" despite advertisements for items that we are encouraged to buy because of their "scientifically proven" benefits and so on.  There is no proof that smoking has any influence on the rates of lung cancer either,  but the evidence is so overwhelming now that most people wouldn't question the relationship.  The evidence for carbon, its compounds and their release into the atmosphere, and its effects on the temperature of the earth and its climate are becoming just as well correlated and less deniable all the time.

Then, of course, there are the climate change sceptics.   I have heard their arguments....  that sunspots are increasing the temperature,  it's a natural cycle,  that the temperature of the earth is actually decreasing and that there is nothing that we can do about this in any case.  Many of these ideas show correlations between particular events and global temperature, and some don't.

And then there is game theory....   much work has been done and many papers published about the risk taking behaviour and how people react in risky situations.  Much of this research has been funded by people who make gaming machines... they need to know just how often people need a "payout" to keep them playing in a "no-win" situation.... and there is much to learn.
There are experiments that show how people behave in risk-taking situations.  One of the most famous is  based on a game called "the prisoner's dilemma."  This describes how people behave when the results of their risk-taking behaviour depend upon the behaviour of another.  And this is where I find some similarities with climate change avoidance.

Australians are among the highest per-capita emitters of carbon pollutants.  The lower population makes the total effect less significant for the same reason that China has now surpassed the United States in emissions, merely because of the greater population.  It  is easy to decide that it isn't worth reducing emissions... that someone else should do it first... or that the costs of doing so (the cost to industry) are too great... why me?

And so,  to the question....  are the costs (to industry and electricity production) so great that we (Australians) should risk our collective future in order to maintain our apparent advantage at the risk of making the planet unlivable.   I presume that people in other countries are considering similar issues.  It is a kind of "prisoner's dilemma."  Apparently the leaders of other countries are having similar difficulties.  How to avoid disrupting the "econonomy"  while appearing to make some changes to emissions....  

Remembering that there is no "scientific proof" of the influence that we are having on our planet,  I have long ago refrained from attempting to convince sceptics of the evidence for the damage that we are doing to our planet.  However,  we are playing a very dangerous game with our planet and our future.
As in other gaming situations, the seriousness of the consequences should influence the level of risk taken.  If the consequences are relatively trivial, then one can afford to take great risks.  However,  when there is much more at stake,  it is prudent to take less risk.
If the climate scientists are correct, then we have much at stake,  for we are risking life as we know it on the planet.  The planet will survive,  but we, our children and our grandchildren may not.
If these scientists are wrong,  we will have reduced our consumption  of energy and resources that are in limited supply.  Industries that are high energy consumers might not make as much money as they would have.

In listening to the debate in our parliament in recent days,  the main emphasis seems to be on negotiating a deal that will suit the large energy users/polluters  while making a minor concession to the possibility of catastrophic climate change... so that one can't accuse these people of "fiddling while Rome burns"  ie doing nothing.   The climate change that is happening is dependent upon the chemistry of energy production and the laws of physics as they apply ot our atmosphere, and in the words of David Spratt, "you can't negotiate with the laws of physics."  
I hope that the debate in Copenhagen in a couple of weeks is not just as irrelevent.
I don't believe that politicians are going to make the necessary changes.  The rest of us will make the necessary changes, either voluntarily or when the world changes around us.

Meanwhile,  I reduce, re-use and recycle,  use as little of the available resources as I can and "live simply that others might simply live."  
Some evenings, listening to my neighbour's air-conditioner (because my window is open to let in the cooler air)  I wonder which game we are playing and what the payout will be.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Seed collection and earwigs

Today I have had time to sort out some of the seeds on the plants from the garden.  I have collected a few varieties, and separated some from their pods.
This is Russian kale and this particular set of seed pods is drying in some newspaper.

The bucket of broad beans yielded seed for next season....

... and I also have Siberian kale,  greenfeast peas and purple sprouting broccoli (seeds, that is)... all for after Christmas.

These new seedlings have been eaten by earwigs.  It is a matter of catching as many of them as you can, limiting the mulch and planting enough plants to keep ahead of the earwigs... this is the same zucchini plant that I put in a couple of days ago... I don't know whether it will survive... we'll see.

I have been outside tonight to see how many earwigs are around.  There are quite a few.   They usually come out at about 10pm, and so I went out to see... these(below) are on some potato plants and there are only two here (taken with a flash)... I have seen leaves so covered with them that there is barely space for them to eat...  this is not good,  but not as bad as I've seen.

I watered the seeds that I planted yesterday and I'm hopeful.  Earwigs will be a problem,  but so will the weather.  I have prepared another patch of soil as well.  I'll plant some beans and "leafy green things" tomorrow.  It is really important to keep planting...  I used to say that it was necessary to plant something whenever you pick something from the garden,  but in fact,  it's probably only necessary to plant at least weekly,  as long as you don't miss a week.  
Tomorrow is supposed to be 30C... and who knows where that will end!

There is also a mouse or two in the kitchen.  I have seen one at least... running across the counter top.  I have left some poison out tonight.  I wouldn't mind them if they didn't poo in any food left around...but they have to go!
It is the time of the year when mice are plentiful.  The crops are just harvested and I suppose they have lost their usual food supply in the fields,  so they are determined to take mine.  I have some sympathy, but not enough to share my kitchen!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Planting again...

It has been very frustrating to be re-planting after the really bad patch of weather that we have had,  but I'm not the only one... comparing notes with others at the local plant shop,  it seems that the early hot weather caught a number of people off-guard.
I have replanted a whole section of my garden and I have a shade structure ready to cover my vegetables with,  should it be necessary....  and I'm in no doubt that it shall.

Here is a baby zucchini pant that looks very healthy after a few days alone in the garden...

... this leaf (below) looks a bit the worse for wear.... this is the work of earwigs, I'm sure.   They can do such a lot of damage so quickly  and they are so hard to combat...  I'm not sure where I stand with these...  planting these young plants so late is quite a different strategy!

As I worked my way through the closest vegetable patch today,  I found this leek going to seed...  I'll wait and find the actual seeds later.... whatever survives here is sure to be the toughest plant around.

The newest garden patch....

... today I planted seeds of (from the LHS)  jicama, amaranth and okra.... all hot weather crops,  but since I have missed the "cool" part of the season, I am really "going for broke"  as they say.
I am also bandicooting potatoes,  and picking a few odd gren leafy bits and pieces around the place...  we survive!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

28mm of rain!

First thing this morning I went out to see how the new baby plants had coped with their  night alone with the earwigs... they all seemed fine.  The rain guage had another 28mm (!!!) in it, and that's a record for a November day apparently.  I had heard it raining in the night and imagined another 6 or 10mm... but this was wonderful.  The "house" tank overflowed again!

As I looked around amongst the plants that had gone to seed I found a few ladybirds...  I hope there are a few aphids for them to eat...  I don't want them wandering off to the neighbour's place.

And there are a few different kinds of seeds to collect (aside from the broad beans that are sitting in a bucket drying out.)  Here are Russian kale....

... silver beet....

... mustard...

... and on I went around the yard looking to see how it was after the rain.... lots of weeds, of course,  but here is my tree stump seat...  with periwinkle growing over it (this will only survive a few more weeks until the weather is hot for the summer...)

and kurrajong flowers....  (bees love these, and sometimes the whole tree hums)

... flowers on an emu bush....  (the honeyeaters love these)...

... a different kind of saltbush fruit... very tiny and very sweet... prickly (but very productive) artichoke that also produced mature flowers while I was away.  There are several large flowers and I might just leave them as they are very beautiful.  Perhaps I could cut and bring these inside eventually.

 and more cactus flowers...

If you look carefully here you can still see the trickle down the side of the tank... it's completely full!  I do need to put a proper downpipe on this tank,  but what a thrill to hear the water running out of this in the night!

Now,  this is the yard that is at the back of my house....  it looks like a goat yard to me!  (It has previously had a pony in it... long before I lived here,  but I keep imagining a goat in there.)  Mmmmm...

Friday, 20 November 2009


I don't really know whether this is synchronicity or not,  but today I turned over the calendar to November (finally!) and found this picture...

... this is a lithograph called "Cross current" by Ningeokuluk Teevee in 2005.  She is an Inuk writer and artist from Cape Dorset, where printmaking has become an important artistic skill.  Cape Dorset is near the southern tip of Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada.

 I took a photograph at the Monterey Bay aquarium a few weeks ago....

... and they remind me of each other.  It makes me want to make a painting or a print of my own,  but I don't usually paint from photographs... I need to learn a new skill.


I have finished all of my daily errands and opted out of the evening trip to Adelaide (for the Gouger St event for the Classic Adelaide) and I've been back out in the garden cleaning up grass and rubbish that could be a fire hazard.
I decided to collect the broad bean seeds.  These look pretty ordinary when they dry out in the sun.  I usually collect them later than this,  but this year the plants have died off early in the heat...
These are the seeds from the ordinary white flowered plants and the ones that we normally eat...

I did get a few seeds from the red flowering ones also.  These didn't produce as prolifically as the others, but I liked the plants and there were a few seeds.  The pods that I found looked suspiciously chewed by small teeth (rats? mice?)  However,  I found these few...

This bucket (below) is full of the seed for next year's crop.
While I was picking these, I had a strange yet optimistic feeling that it was such a good thing to be collecting seed for next year, despite this season.  
I wondered about farmers from  years ago,  when people must have collected seed or retained it from the crop,  for the following year, despite disastrous seasons.  This is surely one of the most clear and physical demonstrations of optimism that one could imagine.

This is the bucket of pods that still need to be completely dried out and shucked to supply my seeds for the broad bean crop next year.  These will be planted after the summer when it rains again...  maybe June or July.

Under the shadecloth, my baby plants...

....having such tiny plants at this time of the year is tricky...  apart from the lack of water,  there are earwigs!