How my life has changed……

29 01 2016

It never ceases to amaze me these days when I think about the things I now do as compared to what I used to do, or even what I thought I might one day do…. Yesterday, I went shopping for a plough.  Yes dear reader, he who believes in no till farming went looking for a plough. And drove 550km, wasting a tankful of petrol and a whole day to no avail…

You have to understand why I want a plough first…. apple orchards (in fact, all orchards) are planted in wind rows. This is all done for practicality’s sake, it makes it easier to drive mowers and sprayers and harvesting equipment between the rows, and that’s fine I guess (yes, even organic growers spray).


Here you can see the old windrows and furrows

I can understand why on very steep ground such rows may be set up perpendicular to contour, as tractors might overturn when driven across the slope, but really, why plant there in the first place? Windrows that are planted straight up and down slopes, when it rains, such as it is finally doing here right now after the driest (and probably hottest) January on record, encourage the rain to run straight down the hill instead of being retained such as a swale would do. Because of such silly methods, orchardists have to irrigate more, wasting water, which is currently at a premium.

My block was completely planted with apples like this once, and even though most of the trees except for the single hectare left have been removed, the windrows and resultant furrows remain. This makes it very difficult to drive over for one thing, but worse, it goes


disc plough

completely against all the Permaculture principles I hold dear. And, they will simply accelerate the flow of water down the hill towards the back of the new house, so they have to go.

The block directly above ours was smoothed like this for hay growing by a previous owner, and he told my neighbour, who also wants to remove some of his windrows, that this was the way to go.  As Matt owns a tractor or two, I proposed to buy a plough, and we would come to some agreement over powering it over our windrows, which is how good neighbours need to cooperate, in my (and his!) opinion……

I found two such ploughs going at an auction, just outside Launceston, unfortunately. I was very reluctant to drive that far, but, thinking that farmers are doing rather badly at the moment with the drought and the cost of hay etc, I figured I could probably pick it up for a song. I could not have been more wrong….

Probably due to my trepidation at such a trip, I woke up well before the alarm which was set for 5am, and left Geeveston at 5:30 giving myself plenty of time to arrive there before the 9:30 starting time. When I arrived, my heart just sank……  there were hundreds of cars there already, and the auction was bigger than Ben Hur. I registered my interest, and got bidder card number 635….. and people were still queuing up!

I found my ploughs (there were two) but being new to all this farming stuff, I wasn’t really sure what I was looking at. Luckily I met this bloke, with the offputting habit of spitting on the ground every five minutes, who dealt in farm machinery all his life and gave me some pointers on how much he thought they were worth and what state they were in. To me, they looked more like scrap metal than ploughs, but he insisted that if I wasn’t expecting decades of work out of it, it would be fine for maybe two or three hundred bucks, which was already twice as much as I had planned to pay!


There were also four fourteen foot farm gates there I was keen on, thinking I’d be able to pick those up for fifty or sixty bucks a pop. They went first, and to my utter amazement, the bidders went nuts with the eventual winner bidding $100 each plus GST ($110), and I know for a fact you can pick up brand new ones for $115! Discussing this later with some old codger there, he told me ‘there’s dickheads everywhere’!


And yes, you’ve guessed it, my ploughs went for over $450 each, and I returned home empty handed and disappointed. Put it down to experience I guess, but I’m never driving that far for another auction, that’s for sure. People were parting with money for junk that I frankly would not have loaded the ute with if you paid me…… no wonder farmers go bust.


“you can only do what you can do”

25 01 2016

Rare Specimen

My interview, in his 90th year, with Sir David Attenborough

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 23rd January 2016


Photo by Nadav Kander

You cannot meet David Attenborough without reflecting on the lottery of life. He bounces into the room unaccompanied, a little stiff in the lower back perhaps, but otherwise breezy and lithe. He is sound in wind and limb, vision and hearing, his eyes sparkle, his face is scarcely rumpled by time. Yet in three months he will celebrate his 90th birthday.

While other people’s worlds tend to shrink with age, his seems to expand. His curiousity ranges as widely as ever. His ability to understand and assimilate new information seems unabated. “Oh, I forget things,” he claims. When I press him for examples, he tells me, “Well, where I put my glasses, I had them about three minutes ago and they have simply evaporated, they’ve dematerialised. Oh yeah, and I forget engagements.”

But these, surely, are afflictions suffered by anyone immersed in the world of ideas. He has no diffulty remembering the things that fascinate him. When I ask him about his new project, his body bundles up with excitement.

“Luminous earthworms! Did you know about luminous earthworms? Aaah, aaah, yes, very interesting. I’m doing a thing on bioluminescence … and with a little research we discovered that there are earthworms in France that are luminous – in the earth! Why? Yes, why?! Well at the moment I am just thinking about it. As you well know there’s a gene for luminosity and it’s very widespread, and so you would like to suppose that it has some antiquity. So maybe luminosity was a by-product of digestive processes or energy processes or something.

“And if it is, the exciting thing is – what about all those graptolites, what if they were luminous?! In which case, now you suddenly realise that trilobites have bloody good eyes, so maybe they were there too! Wow!” (Graptolites and trilobites are long-extinct marine animals).

I mention his latest film, which will air on Sunday, about the excavation and reconstruction of the skeletons of Titanosaurs, the biggest terrestrial animals known to have walked the Earth. Why, I ask, do dinosaurs exert such a grip, especially on the minds of children?

“Partly because nearly all the adults have got it wrong. It’s one of the easiest subjects for a kid – or it was when I was a kid – for you to expose your parents, because you had just read the new cigarette card and there was a name there, a polysyllabic name, your parents had never heard of.”

And there he still was, I realised, the boy with his cigarette cards, his excitement about creatures that lived many millions of years ago undimmed by the passage of mere decades.

So this is what must have happened. On one of his early expeditions through a remote tract of rainforest, he stumbled across the elixir of life. He has been hoarding it ever since and surreptitiously sipping a little every day. Either that, or he is simply the luckiest man alive: fit, bright, relevant, in love with life, the last man standing.

He has the decency to be aware of his luck. “People sitting in corners doing nothing aren’t there because they want to sit in the corner doing nothing. They would much rather be doing [things]. And I am lucky enough to be able to do them. It would be very ungrateful to have that facility and not use it.” He has, of course, no intention of retiring.

There is only one lifeform he is reluctant to discuss, the scientific curiosity known as Sir David Attenborough. He created a powerful sense, when talking, of intimacy and candour, leaning in, holding my gaze, twinkling and gurning, speaking in his confidential whisper. But when I came to read the transcript of our interview I found that what had felt like frank confession was nothing of the kind. What he said with his body bore no relation to what he said with his words.

I pressed him several times on an issue with which I have long been struggling. How do those of us who love the natural world cope with its loss? He must have seen more than his fair share of devastation.

“Oh yes, of course. You go to Borneo and see oil palms everywhere where there was forest. You see people everywhere where there weren’t people.”

“And how does it affect you, seeing those changes?”

“Well you feel apprehensive for the future, of course you do.”

“So how do you cope?”

“I don’t have a rosy view of life, of the future, I look at my grandchildren and think ‘what are they going to have to deal with?’, of course I do. How could you not?”

But what about the emotional impact? Does he not get depressed? Does he have a mechanism for avoiding depression? He answered by bouncing the issue onto someone else.

“I once asked exactly the same question of Peter Scott [the great British conservationist, who died in 1989]. And he said, ‘Well you can only do what you can do.’ So what I do is what I can, but I wish to goodness I had done a tenth of what Peter did.”

While his self-deprecation is charming, it also seems defensive. I pictured those two quintessentially English men stroking their chins and repeating “you can only do what you can do” to each other, and thought of a scene in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. An army captain pays a call on one of his men, who is lying in bed, nonchalently reading a book. “What’s all the trouble, then?”. “Bitten, sir. During the night”. “Hmm. Whole leg gone, eh … Any idea how it happened?”. “None whatsoever. Complete mystery to me. Woke up just now, one sock too many.” Monty Python made their television debut on BBC2, commissioned by the controller at the time, a certain David Attenborough.

When talking in general terms, he uses the word “I”. When asked to talk about his feelings, he says “you”. Some of this is perhaps generational: it was once considered vulgar to discuss such matters. But perhaps his great fame has also obliged him to develop a carapace. I asked whether his public life has blurred the boundaries of his private self.

“There has always been the private and the public thing in you, in everybody”, he replies. “You are different things to different people, to your children, to your television producer.”

Can he go anywhere in public without being mobbed?

“I have to confess the ubiquity of the selfie is, er –  On occasion when they say ‘do you mind’, I say ‘well, I am off duty at the moment’, and they say ‘oh are you?’, by which time I’m three yards down the road. But I do have to remember that they are the people who … listen to me, you know, and so you try not to be rude.”

I asked him if he ever gets lonely. His wife, Jane Oriel, died almost 20 years ago.

“Hmm? Oh. My daughter lives in the same house as me now and has done for many years. So once a day I see her, she runs my business affairs and, you know, I’m very lucky.”

He is just as discreet about the politics surrounding his work. On the day I met him, the controller of BBC2 and BBC4, Kim Shillinglaw, lost her post. He was plainly delighted, chuckling and winking and grinning when he asked me whether I had read that morning’s news. But he was careful to say nothing quotable. Television producers I know expressed intense frustration at her instant and unexplained dismissal of programmes they proposed on environmental themes.

But the problem, as I perceive it, is much wider than that: has there not been a systemic failure by television to cover the great crisis of our age: the gradual collapse of the Earth’s living systems?

“I am absolutely certain that the general public at large is more aware of the natural world than it was even before the industrial revolution,” he replies, “and that people are well informed about not only what the world contains but the processes that go on. Television has made a contribution to that. … I greatly regret the fact that there are no or very few regular – ”

He stops himself, and plunges into a more general discussion of scheduling. Surely, I persist, there’s a real problem here? Entire years have passed without a single substantial programme on environmental issues.

“Well,” he says, more crisply than at any other time in the interview, “you’ll have to take that up with the controllers.”

I suggest that his own interest in the state of the world appears to have intensified in recent years.

“That’s not an interest. I wish I didn’t have it. I wish there was no need to have it. It’s not an interest, it’s an obligation.”

But he has surely been more prominent as an environmental voice in the past twenty years than he was before?

“Well yeah, and that is very simple in that I have been in the BBC all my working life, practically, and you knew very well … that if you said something, just because you are on the damn box people thought it was true and you’d better be bloody well sure that it is true.”

(I used to curse this reticence, willing him to get off the fence and denounce the destruction of all he loved.)

He explains that his views on climate change crystallised when he attended a lecture – he could tell me when it was if he had his diary to hand – by the president of the US National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Cicerone. After that, he made two programmes, called Are We Changing Planet Earth? and Can We Save Planet Earth?

Attenborough is not just a master of the art of television, but also one of the medium’s pioneers, producing programmes almost from its launch in this country, and guiding the development of some of its treasured strands, first as controller of BBC2 (from 1965 to 1969), and then as the BBC’s director of programmes (until 1973). Has he helped to create a monster?

“Well it depends how you define a monster. And are all monsters malign?”

Has it not encouraged us to be more sedentary, I ask: to spend less time engaging with the world about us? He laughs and winks: “And we gave up sitting in pubs for three or four hours a day! How awful!”. Would he lay any ills at the door of television? “Oh yes, of course. Adipose tissue.” Anything else? “What you might call visual chewing gum, in that it stops you thinking about anything else. But then I feel that about music. I mean I cannot understand how people want to go round with -” he mimes a pair of headphones and shifts the conversation onto a safer subject.

I was packing my things after saying goodbye when suddenly he sprang back into the room, this time wearing his glasses and holding a small leather filofax. “I’ve found the details of that lecture by Ralph Cicerone. I thought you’d want to know.” He showed me the address and the date: 2004. The old scientific habit – record your facts, check your facts – had not deserted him. As I marvelled at his recollection that he had left something hanging, and his determination to resolve it, this remarkable specimen of life on earth skipped away to his next appointment.

Raul Ilargi at his best……

23 01 2016

Square Holes and Currency Pegs

When David Bowie died, everybody, in what they wrote and said, seemed to feel they owned him, and owned his death, even if they hadn’t thought about him, or listened to him, for years. In the same vein, though the Automatic Earth has been talking about deflation (for 8 years, it’s our anniversary today) and the looming China Ponzi disaster for a long time, now that these things actually play out, everybody talks as if they own the story, and present it as new (because, for one thing, well, after all for them it is new…).

And that’s alright, it’s how people live, and function, they always have, and no-one’s going to change that. It’s just that for me, I’ve been wondering a little about what to write lately, because I’ve already written the deflation and China stories, many times, before most others tuned into them. But still, it’s strange to now, as markets start plunging, read things like ‘Deflation is Here’, as if deflation is something new on the block.

Deflation has been playing out for years. Central bank largesse has largely kept it at bay in the public eye, but that now seems over. Debt deflation is inevitable when -debt- bubbles burst, and when these bubbles are large enough, there’s nothing that can stop the process, not even miracle growth. But you’re not going to understand this if and when you look only at falling prices as the main sign of deflation; they’re merely a small part of the process, and a lagging one at that.

A much better indicator of deflation is the velocity of money, the speed at which ‘consumers’ spend money. And velocity has been going down for years. That’s where and how you notice deflation, when combined with the money and credit supply. Which have soared in most places, but were no match for a much faster declining velocity. People have much less money to spend. Which shouldn’t be a surprise if, just to name an example, new US jobs pay 23% less than the ones they’re -supposedly- replacing.

As I said a few weeks ago, it’s probably only fitting, given its pivotal role in our economies and societies, that it’s oil that’s leading the way down. Other commodities are not far behind, because demand for -and spending on- them has been plummeting too, as overproduction and overinvestment, especially in China, do the rest.

However you look at present global debt, percentage wise, or in absolute numbers, you name it, there’s never been anything like it. We outdid ourselves by so much we don’t have the rational or probably even subconscious ability to oversee what we’ve done. We live in the world’s biggest bubble ever by a margin of god only knows how much. And that bubble will deflate. It is already doing just that.

The next steps in the debt deflation process will of necessity be chaotic. A substantial part of that chaos is bound to emerge from denial, and the reluctance to accept reality. Which often rise from a poor understanding of the processes taking place. It certainly looks as if there’s lots of that in China, where both the working principles of financial markets and the grip authorities -can- have on them, seem to be met with a huge dose of incomprehension.

Mind you, given the levels of comprehension vs outright ‘theoretical religion’ among leading western politicians and economists, the ones who most often rise to decision-making positions in governments and financial institutions, we have nothing on China when it comes to truth and denial.

From all that follows what will be the next leg down in the ‘magnificent slump’: the awfully messy demise of currency pegs.

In a short explainer for the uninitiated, allow me to steal a few words from Investopedia: “There are two types of currency exchange rates—floating and fixed, still in existence. Major currencies, such as the Japanese yen, euro, and the US dollar, are floating currencies—their values change according to how the currency is being traded on forex markets. Fixed currencies, on the other hand, derive value by being fixed (or pegged) to another currency.”

While there are more currency pegs in the world today than we should care to mention -there are dozens-, it seems fair to say that in today’s deflationary environment, practically all are under siege. Most African currencies are pegged to the euro, and they do have to wonder how smart that is going forward. Still, the main, and immediate, problems seem to arise in pegs to the US dollar (with one interesting exception: the Swiss franc – more in a bit).

Most oil producing Gulf nations are pegged to the greenback. So is Hong Kong. And, for all intents and purposes, so is China, though you have to wonder what a peg truly is if you change it on a daily basis. China is on its way to a peg vs a basket of currencies, but that seriously interferes with its stated intention to become a reserve currency -of sorts-. If your currency can’t stand on its own two feet, i.e. float, you’re per definition weak.

China’s vice president Li Yuanchao said this week in Davos that Beijing has no plans to devalue the yuan, i.e. to cut the peg to the dollar. Then again, he also stated that “central command” would ‘look after’ stock market investors. Put the two statements together and you have to wonder what the one on the yuan (couldn’t help myself there) is worth.

The first “link in the chain” that appears vulnerable is the Hong Kong dollar, which is stuck between China and the US, and unlike the yuan still has a solid dollar peg, but, obviously, also has a strong link to the yuan. The issue is that if China continues on its current course of daily small yuan devaluations, the difference with the HKD will grow so large that ever more investments and savings will move to Hong Kong, despite a maze of laws designed to keep just that from happening.

And that is the overall danger to currency pegs as they still exist in today’s rapidly changing global financial world: all economies are falling, but some are falling -much- faster than others.

Not so long ago, the World Bank called on Saudi Arabia to defend its USD peg with its FX reserves. It even looked as if they meant it. But Saudi Arabia has no choice but to deplete those reserves to prevent other nasty things from happening that are much more important than a currency peg. Like social chaos.

It’s somewhat wonderfully ironic that the main most recent experience with abandoning a peg comes from a source that faced -and now feels- the exact opposite of what nations like Saudi Arabia and China do. That is, it became too costly and risky for Switzerland to keep its franc pegged (or ‘capped’, to be precise) to the euro any longer a year ago, because of upward, not downward pressure.

Since then, the euro went from 1.20 franc to 1.09 or thereabouts, which perhaps doesn’t look all that crazy, and many ‘experts’ seek to downplay the effects of the move, but it’s still estimated to have cost the Swiss some $25 billion. For comparison, the US has 40 times as many people as Switzerland’s 8 million, so the per capita bill would be close to $1 trillion stateside. That wouldn’t have added to Yellen’s popularity. Currency pegs and caps can be expensive hobbies.

And that’s why the Saudis and Chinese are so anxious about letting go of their pegs. That and pride. In their cases, their respective currencies wouldn’t, like the franc, rise versus the one they’re pegged to, they would instead lose a lot of value. And in the fake markets we live in today, where price discovery has long since been left behind, there’s no telling how much. Well, unless they seek to keep control, but then it would be just a matter of time until they need to rinse and repeat.

Even if it seems obvious to make a particular move, and if everybody knows you really should, showing what can be perceived as real weakness could be a killer when everything else around you is manipulated to the bone.

Still, neither Beijing nor Riyadh stand a chance in a frozen-over hell, to ultimately NOT sharply devalue their currencies or just simply let go of their pegs. Simply because China’s economy is falling to pieces, and the Saudi’s dependence on oil prices is dragging it into a financial gutter. Just look at what falling prices had done to the riyal vs non-pegged oil producer currencies by October 2015, when Brent was still at $45:

The Saudis could have been paid for their oil in a currency worth perhaps twice as much as their own, the one their domestic economy runs on. That’s overly simplistic, because the Saudi tie to the USD runs far and deep, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

What will bring down the Chinese and Saudi pegs, along with a long list of other pegs, is, how appropriately, the very same markets they’ve been relying on to NOT function. The bets against Hong Kong’s ability to maintain its USD peg have already started, and China is next, along with the House of Saud (the latter two just take more fire-power). Which of course is exactly why they speak their soothing ‘confident’ words. Words that are today interpreted as the very sign of weakness they’re meant to circumvent.

What worked for George Soros in his bet vs the Bank of England and the pound sterling in 1992, will work again unless these countries are ahead of the game and swallow their pride and -ultimately- smaller losses.

Granted, so much will have to be recalibrated if the yuan devalues by 50% or so, and the riyal does something similar (it’s very hard to see either not happening), that it will take some serious time before everyone knows where they -and others- stand. And since volatility tends to feed on itself once there’s enough of it, it seems to make sense that governments would seek control. But that doesn’t mean they -can- actually have any.

Today’s major currency pegs are remnants of a land of long ago lore; they have no place in this world, they are financial misfits. Who’ve been allowed to persist only because central banks and governments have been able to distort markets for as long as they have. But that ability is not infinite, and it’s in nobody’s longer term interest that it would be.

Not even those that now seem to profit most from it. We will end up with societies that function no better for the ridiculous Davos elites than they do for the bottom rung. But no elite will ever see that, let alone admit it voluntarily.

Deflation and foreign exchange chaos. There’s your future. As for stocks and oil, who’s left to buy any? Not the consumer who’s 70% of US and perhaps 60% of EU GDP, they’re maxed out on private debt. So why would investors put their money in either? And if they don’t, where do you see prices go?

Even more importantly, deflation makes a lot of money, and even much more virtual money, vanish into overnight thin air. That’s what everyone is running into when all these currencies, China, Saudi, Gulf states et al, are forced to recalibrate. $17 trillion disappeared from global equities markets in the past 6 months.

How much vanished from the value of ‘official’ oil reserves? How much from iron ore and aluminum? How much do all the world’s behemoth corporations and banks and commodity-exporting countries have their resource ‘wealth’ on their books for in their sunny creative accounting models? And how much of that is just thin hot air too?

We’re about to find out.

2015 hottest year on record

21 01 2016

No surprises here….  except that NASA and NOAA disagree with Dave Kimble, showing global temperature has gone over 1C above baseline. But what would they know?


2015 was Planet Earth’s warmest year since modern record-keeping began in 1880, according to a new analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Earth’s 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much.

The 2015 temperatures continue a long-term warming trend, according to analyses by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York (GISTEMP). NOAA scientists concur with the finding that 2015 was the warmest year on record based on separate, independent analyses of the data. Because weather station locations and measurements change over time, there is some uncertainty in the individual values in the GISTEMP index. Taking this into account, NASA analysis estimates 2015 was the warmest year with 94 percent certainty.

“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA’s vital work on this important issue affects every person on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Today’s announcement not only underscores how critical NASA’s Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice – now is the time to act on climate.”

The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1.0 degree Celsius) since the late-19th century, a change largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.

Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. Last year was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.


Phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña, which warm or cool the tropical Pacific Ocean, can contribute to short-term variations in global average temperature. A warming El Niño was in effect for most of 2015.

“2015 was remarkable even in the context of the ongoing El Niño,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “Last year’s temperatures had an assist from El Niño, but it is the cumulative effect of the long-term trend that has resulted in the record warming that we are seeing.”

Weather dynamics often affect regional temperatures, so not every region on Earth experienced record average temperatures last year. For example, NASA and NOAA found that the 2015 annual mean temperature for the contiguous 48 United States was the second warmest on record.

NASA’s analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations. These raw measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heating effects that could skew the conclusions if left unaccounted for. The result of these calculations is an estimate of the global average temperature difference from a baseline period of 1951 to 1980.

NOAA scientists used much of the same raw temperature data, but a different baseline period, and different methods to analyze Earth’s polar regions and global temperatures.

GISS is a NASA laboratory managed by the Earth Sciences Division of the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.

The full 2015 surface temperature data set and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation are available at:

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit:

Life on The Fanny Farm

19 01 2016

As the world unravels, my tasks here on our new piece of dirt slowly but surely continue. I haven’t had much luck with machinery since landing here. First, the Chinese chainsaw had to be sent back (and was replaced under warranty), then I managed to fall a tree on my Stihl replacement, totally screwing the bar and chain, then the used Husqvarna brushcutter I bought on impulse at a garage sale decided to shed its cooling fan blades, like an old man shedding his teeth….. it was going to cost as much to fix it as I paid for it, so I opted to shout myself a brand new Honda one from eBay, what I wanted to do in the first place, and should have done as soon as I arrived. Inexplicably, the trimmer guard which is made in two pieces fell apart during use, making me wonder whether it was ever actually screwed together? Five bucks worth of fasteners quickly fixed it, and I have to say, I much prefer four stroke motors to two stroke. I just wish Honda would make a four stroke chainsaw!

A few days ago, a letter from the Council arrived, telling me the ‘tall grass’ in my orchard was a fire hazard and would have to be cut within two weeks or I would cop a $3000 fine….. I strongly suspect my neighbours complained, they even mowed a strip inside my boundary as a fire break of sorts. it’s a bit sad when they can’t even ask you in person first.

20160115_170052I considered buying a rideon mower, but really, after my experiences with machines, and considering that my long term strategy for controlling the grass in the orchard consists of using ducks and sheep that require no fossil fuel inputs, I decided to ask my amazing neighbour if he’d cut it for me.

Being an orchardist himself, Matt has all the gear. He agreed to come over with his tractor and mulcher/mower, and had the whole job done in just over an hour. The tractor attachment is a neat piece of gear, as it slides sideways in either direction, allowing the tractor to remain in the middle of the row, while the mower slides right up against the trees for a clean finish. And rather than just mowing it also shreds the grass for mulch.

Two rows of apple trees were removed from the orchard by the previous owners, and replaced with several cherry trees, some black currants which I harvested and ate, a chestnut tree, three olive trees, some plums and possibly a pear, Matt wasn’t sure. I’m too new at these stone fruit to distinguish them, but they were obviously very neglected, and having to cut the grass gave me the incentive to clear the grass around all these lost trees and discover what else might be in there…… I haven’t finished yet!

It’s been hot, so I have to pace myself. And smoke from the bushfires up North in Cradle Valley has been blown all this way South making for very hazy conditions. I miss my ‘world’s cleanest air’ already










I finally bit the bullet and bought six chooks, which are currently laying three to four eggs a day, more than I can consume on my own, so now I’ve joined the Huon Producers Network, I may even start selling my excess eggs at the market. The chook pen that was already here is working great, the hens are happy, and after a week locked up to ensure they recognised where home was, I’ve started letting them out to free range again.

20160119_081230The orchard is doing really well, and frankly, it’s the Geeveston Fannies that are doing their best, even in the dry weather and complete lack of any irrigation and fertilisation, they are bursting with fruit. So much so that the other morning I found them attracting a rather large flock of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos which caused a fair bit of damage. One of the tennets of permaculture is sharing with the wildlife, so I’ll have to wear it… DSC_2173they’ve gone to someone else’s orchard now no doubt, who may be less kind, as they are actually allowed to shoot them, or at least scare them away with shotguns!


I’ve now decided to thin the Fannies and use the thinnings to make some cider. I’m told that thinnings make fine cider, so I’ll have a crack, watch this space. Surely I can harvest the forty or so kilos I need to make a batch of the stuff?

Speaking of Geeveston Fannies, I’m toying with the idea of calling our new heaven “The Fanny Farm”.  A play on words (Funny Farm, Geeveston Fannies) I think it’s catchy and cheeky and might attract tourists to buy my produce. Glenda’s not keen, thinks it’s too racy…. what do you think dear reader?

Sid will be back from his break in a couple of days, and hopefully he’ll move all the trees on the ground to give me space to fell the last six to eight macrocarpas that are too tall for my access to winter sunlight. let me tell you, I am really looking forward to reaching the end of that tunnel, I am ready to move onto stage two of creating zone one, earthworks...




The unraveling is going global….

18 01 2016

You never hear about markets outside of New York, London, and Australia…….. but, as seen here from a Zerohedge article by Tyler, the rout is global.  And because these countries are at the core of our hydrocarbon energy sources, if they don’t recover……?

Broad Middle-East and African stock markets crashed over 5%, erasing any gains back to November 2008 as the carnage from last week continues. From Kuwait (-4.3%) to Qatar (-8%) it was a bloodbath as Saudi Arabia Tadawul Index plunged 5.4% – the most since Black Monday (now down over 50% from their 2014 highs). These losses are far in excess of US ‘catch-up’ moves and suggest a dark cloud over Asia this evening.


It’s been a bloodbath in the Middle-East since the year began…


Africa/Middle-East Stocks crashed 5%…


Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul Index is down 5.4% on the day – the worst since August’s collapse and has lost over 50% since its exuberant peak in 2014…


Kuwait down over 4% to 2009 lows…


But Qatar was carnaged… (down over 8%)


Makes you wonder where all that hot-money from The Fed flowed eh?


This is bigger…….

17 01 2016

That was big………  but this is bigger.

Whilst I admit to not hearing it for some time, the MSM has been spreading its usual nonsense in the form of “the fundamentals” [of the economy] are spot on, there’s nothing to worry about. Which I’ve been calling for years as crap, and now there’s a chart that explains everything regarding why I feel this way.

chart says it all

(Richard Koo: The ‘struggle between markets and central banks has only just begun’, Business Insider)

Why is the economy barely growing after seven years of zero rates and easy money? Why are wages and incomes sagging when stock and bond prices have gone through the roof? Why are stocks experiencing such extreme volatility when the Fed increased rates by a mere quarter of a percent?

It’s the policy, stupid. And here’s the chart that explains exactly what the policy is.

What this chart clearly shows is that the monumental increase in money printing had almost zero effect on lending, nor did it trigger the credit expansion the Fed were hoping for…… In other words, the Fed’s insane pump-priming of the economy experiment (aka– QE) both failed to stimulate growth and put the economy back on the so called ‘path to recovery’ we’ve been told was on, but everyone else has been saying for years never happened. For all intents and purposes, the policy was a complete flop.

Mind you, had it worked, I think we would have seen massive inflation. Basically, the fundamentals went AWOL way back in 2008. And no one wants to admit to it.lifestyle_banksy-500x332

The latest news from the US is that Walmart are closing 269 stores, which will probably leave some small towns with nowhere to buy anything,  and thousands of people out of work. If you need signs that economic collapse is now well underway, look no further than that little curler…..

The upside is that we might even see CO2 emissions starting to fall.