5 years an e2 user. 5 years ago? What?

5 years was practically everything ago. My cat died since then. My brother went missing. I earned a degree. I started drinking. I stopped drinking. I loved (love...d?), and I lost. We all lost, some.

I took in some amazing art, much of it writing. And I finally decided to try to burp out something at a percentile of the quality and relevance, in order to pay it back somehow, and to understand it better. I was turned on to poetry and it has become undoubtedly one of the brightest and healthiest parts of a life that I have spent with my head down, as quietly as I could.

The first step convincing me towards making literature and poetry an active part of my life was this place. This content, and users, this quirky intelligent antiquated cool-to-be-uncool rapture occupying such a tiny corner of the world.

It's been good to know you, hell it's been good to know you're even here.

Day 10 - Broome YBRM to Hall's Creek YHLC via Fitzroy Crossing YFTZ

We had the morning to wander around Broome, since we were only doing a 300 NM hop to Hall's Creek in the afternoon - and there's nothing to do in Hall's Creek, according to the tour pilots. We just go there to break up the trip to Alice Springs YBAS. So we drove downtown in the morning (to Chinatown, which in Broome is essentially one main drag street and very little of it is Chinese) and all went our separate ways. I explored the shops before settling in to write up the prior day's flight at a Kebab shop. I was struck via the Kebab equivalence by the difference in cost of living. A kebab (shawarma) with a soda was $17.50 AUD. That's around $16 US. Which is quite a bit, to be honest. I'm still able to get a perfectly reasonable shawarma for around $9 in New York City. Admittedly, Broome is a beach town.

It was a tasty kebab though.

Following my kebab and quick blogging break, I met up with a few other tour members for a quick cafe stop. I had a mocha frappe, others had tea. It was that sort of time. When we were done, it was time to drop off the rental cars and head for the airport - so we did.

Prepping SDN, I reminded myself to test COM2 and to make sure that GPS2 acquired lock. Just to be safe, I bounced SDN's nose up and down a few times to make sure the newly repaired nose gear strut worked - all good. We saddled up and I let the other tour planes head off first as I did note taking and planning work. Finally, contacted Broome Ground, and they gave us immediate clearance to taxi to holding point Charlie for 28, so we headed out.

Did my runup tasks during the taxi, and had the checklist cleared by the time we reached the holding point. I reported in, and they handed me off to the tower, who cleared us to go. Took off out over the Indian Ocean and turned right (north) over the beach - glorious. Turned on course (due east) and began our climb to 5,500. Broome Tower asked us to report reaching 5,500 with distance from Broome. When we hit 5,500, we were 9NM east of the airport, and they cleared us with 'SDN, clear of Class D airspace, frequency change approved, good day."

Thanks Broome!

The flight east was a bit bumpy, so we headed up to 7,500 where it was a bit smoother. We passed both tour planes. The problem with all of us using GPS systems and the same nav checkpoints is that, yes, we all end up on the exact same track, and unless I divert around the other aircraft when approaching them, we almost always end up within 1/2 mile, sometimes closer. Requires keeping our eyes open and paying attention.

En route, we passed some neat landscape features, including a huge area of land covered with a slightly wavy grid of what seemed to be dirt tracks. Val explained that it was a minerals exploration area, and the grid did in fact correspond to map coordinates.

Fitzroy's Crossing slid by, and we came up on Hall's Creek, some 311 NM from Broome and nearly directly south of Kununurra. I set up for a long left base, but ended up too high and fast again, so I went around. I'm learning that the heavier 182, when descending, will speed up - which means either I end up still too high by the time I get to the circuit, or too fast, or both. The 172 with the constant pitch prop will slow right down when you yank the power, but the 182 adjusts pitch so there's less drag, and it's heavier.

There were a large number of birds in the circuit, but again we used the force and they all avoided us (mostly Black Kites from the looks of them, soaring raptors). On the second time around, got the setup I wanted and eased SDN on to the ground. We pulled up to the pump and I danced my way to the tiny terminal shelter (not even a building) only to find that the MALE toilet was locked. GAAAAAAAH. Was preparing to take emergency measures involving a corner of the shed when I found that the FEMALE toilets were open, so, well, okay. On the male toilet was a sign saying 'FOR ACCESS CALL SECURITY OFFICER blah blah blah - basically the same signs that are on the SECURITY CONTROLLED AERODROME signs where you have to call a security office and give them your ASIC number to get a gate code for re-entry, or, sometimes on bigger airports just to get out. THe bathrooms? Seriously? On an airstrip with no-one there? Shee.

Went back to SDN where we'd left her near the pump and found that it was a BP pump, and wouldn't take any other form of card - not the Shell carnet, not the Mobil carnet, not our credit cards. Sigh.

Val showed up some 15 minutes later. She confirmed that not only was it a BP-only bowser, it was a temperamental one as well. She had a BP carnet card, so she authorized our gas and we made plans to pay her back later. Filled SDN and pushed her back, as Hugh had showed up by then, then started her and taxied over to parking.

Oh, and just to make sure my ego took every hit possible, found out that the MALE toilets hadn't been locked. I'd been pulling (there was a metal pull handle on the door) but they were push doors. I plead the stupidity and desperation of floating back teeth. My endurance in a small plane seems to be right around 3 hours, whether or not I have coffee or tea that morning or not...

Val had been careful to tell us that Hall's Creek was 'not a very nice town' and that tour folks have been harassed and had their aircraft broken into there. Just to be safe, we took everything out of the airplane including the rental headsets before locking it up. Then we all walked the 100 yards from the strip to the local hotel, which had an attached sports bar and was a bit upmarket for a town in the middle of nowhere. Despite Val's warnings, we all decided to walk in to the middle of town - where we found, basically, nothing other than a highway, one open petrol station, and some closed shops. There was, however, a lot of noise from a local athletic field on the other side of the highway, so we wandered over. The locals, it turned out, were all playing or watching a ball game which was producing an enormous dust cloud.

I was told that the game was Australian Rules Football ("proper footie"), and the rules were then (of course) enthusiastically explained. We watched for a bit - I was glad I wasn't playing, many of the players were barefoot and no gear was in evidence, but a lot of tackling and roughhousing was, although a good time was being had by all it seemed. After a few minutes, we wandered back towards the hotel. An old aboriginal man attempted to chat with the other tour group members as we passed, and they ignored him - I listened carefully (his voice was very hoarse) and heard the word 'scenery' and replied "The scenery is really beautiful here, yes."

Then I was embarrassed, because he stopped, started to cry, and said "Thank you, mate."

It took me a few seconds to figure out that he was actually grateful I'd responded and interacted with him, which made me feel frankly terrible. I nodded, he nodded back and raised a hand in farewell, and we walked on.

Back at the hotel, we had a drink in the sports bar (VB in a stubby - CHECK, DONE) and retired to our rooms for a bit before dinner. As we were heading down to the rooms, a tour bus pulled in and disgorged 40 people or so. I'm still not sure why they were in town, but I think that it's because Hall's Creek is a crossroads for the highway north to Kununurra and Darwin, and the highway west to Broome. Out of such things, in Australia, are hotel businesses made.

Dinner was unexceptional, and afterwards I retired.

About a week ago, a mammoth swath of North America from the Mississippi River to the eastern seaboard braced for the return of a weather phenomenon which, a mere six months prior, had paralyzed millions within its frozen embrace. Courtesy of a typhoon rampaging up Japan and displacing the Arctic airmass, the Polar Vortex had returned!

It made for some really comfortable weather for gardening.

Cool evenings and mild days with low humidity are a blessing in the Midwest. An uninterrupted weeklong stretch of mild days without humidity is a rather rare phenomena. Not really ideal for growing things like peppers and tomatoes though, and if you were thinking about growing watermelons? Fergeddaboutit, eh? If you live north of Cincinnati, just give it up, Son. Watermelons are best grown in the south and bought off the backs of dilapidated pickup trucks.

Anyway. Where was I...

Right. It has been nice. Cooler than average. And wetter than average as well. Long term drought has put a serious hurt on the other half of the continent from California to Kansas, and it seems that all the rain is falling here in the corn-and-soybean belt where record-crops are expected. Corn futures are so low right now that some folks are starting to worry if the crop, as high yielding as it may be, will even be profitable to harvest! I predict it will be busy at your local grain elevator.

My sweet corn is looking very uniform, but the plants were still very short when the tassels appeared. Even, so pollination, so dependent on adequate soil moisture, was very uniform and I have healthy ears growing. They are also on the smallish side. Maybe it was the late start, or maybe it is just the cultivar. If I am lucky, the ears will mature just when I return from RollerCon next week, and not before.

Earlier in the Summer, I enjoyed a heavy harvest of sweet peas. This Strike cultivar that my mother recommended really lived up to its name: it grew fast and upright, and each plant produced many full pods of sweet peas. I enjoyed a pair of weeks of the best fried rice with peas. You have not HAD sweet peas unless they came right out of the garden at the peak of sweetness, Son!

Have you read the back of a seed packet where it reads: "Sow successive rows two weeks apart for an extended crop?" Man, that never works out for me. Sweet peas, sweet corn, bush beans, I don't think plants want to work that way. I think that plants want to pollinate all at the same time, taking cues from heat or length-of-day or what-not, and those plants two weeks behind the others are just smaller, blooming right along with the elder row.

I grew bush beans this year, a first for me. My mother grows this Cosmos cultivar and the Japanese Beetles do not seem to have a taste for them, whereas those little fuckers chow down on the pole beans of gardens past. Then again, the cold winter seems to have killed off a majority of these beetles this year. Either way, both rows of bush beans produced an abundance of bean pods, most of which have gone onto the grill.

Here is my recipe for a simple summer mixed veggie grill: I pick me a mess of green beans, grab an onion, a beet or two, zucchini and eggplant if there are any to be picked, and head kitchen-side, pausing to look disdainfully at the pitiful cauliflower plants on the way out of the garden. I pop the green beans, chop up the rest, and mix them up all in a bowl with olive oil, salt and whatever spices suit my fancy. Into the grill basket they go to grill outside at around 350F degrees until the green beans are withered but still have a good bite to them. Maybe 20 minutes cooking time. I wish that the peppers would grow, I bet they would be good in there.

Maybe it has been too wet, or too cool, but the sweet Italian peppers I bought at a local farmstand are not doing very well. I think some kind of bug may be after them, actually. The leafs look more like they have been skeletonized in spots rather than been attacked by a scab. The plants are sickly and have not produced flowers. It does not look like Fusarium wilt, thank God! The paprika peppers are looking healthy on the other hand, with a few healthy pale yellow fruits which shall turn characteristically red when they are ripe.

Rounding out the nightshade report, the tomato plants are doing very well, considering that tomato plants prefer things on the dry and hot side. The Rutgers indeterminate variety looks to have some ripe ones within a few weeks, while the Romas are still a way off. The tomato cages that my neighbor gave to me are excellent! His father loved my peaches that grew in abundance last year and the cages just showed up on my side of the fence shortly thereafter. They are about 20" in diameter, five foot tall and made from mild steel structural fencing, the kind they make concrete walls with. No, not rebar, Son, that is something else.

One brief note, the peach tree decided to take this year off from producing fruit. It grew too many fruit last year and was probably stressed by the long cold winter. The tree looks healthy though. The apple tree has a few apples, it also looks healthy. It will not be a tree fruit year.

I already touched upon that the cauliflower was a disappointment. Half of the plants died and the remainder failed to grow anything but pitiful heads. The cabbage was worse. Most of the plants died and only two matured to produce heads. Those two heads did grow nice and big, though, very tender and sweet. Despite the flavor, I will not be purchasing the Tendersweet or Snow Crown cultivar again. Heat-tolerant my ass. The De Cicco broccoli plants also did not produce large main heads. It simply was not a good year for spring cool weather crops. The plants eventually thrived, however, and since I have ten plants, the side shoots are abundant enough to make a meal out of when I fancy it.

The big standout of this years brassicas are the Nero De Toscana kale! True to its supposed Italian heritage, each plant is happier than a pig in a poke and stalwartly growing without any sign of bolting. I stopped harvesting its leaves to put into stir-fries back when the sweet peas petered-out and the green beans started maturing. Looks like to me they will still be fit to harvest again when Autumn comes and the nights get chilly.

The nice weather we are enjoying has inspired me to get out into the jungle and do a lot of weeding and the like. What golden beetroots managed to germinate took their sweet, yellow-assed time in growing. I like to grab them out of the garden when I need them, but pulled the lot last week before they start to split and get woody. Same goes for the Nelson carrots: took a long time to mature. I should find a shorter-growing cultivar for next spring.

Rounding out the summer crop report, the Millionare zucchini and the Marketmore cucumbers are all pest free! I have not seen a cucumber beetle or a squash bug yet this year. It seems that my strategies of starving out a generation and moving the garden were successful. The Okra germinated well, but the plants are small. Nonetheless, they have started flowering and will soon produce pods. The Raspberries were not at all damaged during the winter and I have more berries than I can cook with. I really like to put them into pancake batter and make raspberry waffles. Oh! The grape plant, whose old growth died this winter, is growing new vines as well. This pleases me.

The real bumper crop has been the Walla-Walla onions! Onions are so damn easy to grow, especially if there is abundant rainfall. Each plant produced a baseball to softball sized bulb. My lawn has a lot of white clover in it which started to grow in many areas of the new garden. The biggest onion bulbs grew where the clover has taken hold. Onions are very shallow rooted, as the thick rooted clover is as well. I did not attempt to remove the clover for fear of disturbing the onions. I theorized that as clover is a legume and therefore fixes nitrogen into the soil, that the onions might benefit from the clover's presence. I believe I was correct. The onion plants ate up the excess nitrogen and grew larger than the onions growing without clover. White clover is also a good cover crop and once established will smother out other undesirable weeds with shallow roots. I believe that I will broadcast clover seed into the garden next spring after tilling and sowing in the hope that this beneficial companion plant can feed the soil and further crowd out undesirable weeds.

After I return from Las Vegas, Nevada, I will hopefully have sweet corn, tomatoes and okra to go with my carrots and beets to make vegetarian Gumbo, Hoppin' John, Succotash or whatever else you want to call a stew pot full of late summer veggies. I also will have to start to till and sow for my autumn garden where I will attempt to grow rutabagas and parsnips for the first time as well as a purple carrot, storage cabbages and brussels sprouts.

Laters, skaters!

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