Monday, 24 March 2014

Do you know your monkey keeps dipping his balls in my beer?

The title of this post is the second last line of a joke I told my friend Eric on Sunday.
He laughed straightaway.
My work colleague Scott took a moment to get it, but as he (Scott) pointed out, I made the mistake of telling him before he had his morning coffee, so he has an excuse for being obtuse.
Since its had good reviews I will finish the post with the whole joke.
But first a bit more on Permaculture gardening.
The top photo here shows some cherry tomatoes growing very happily in among Eric's pumpkin vines.
This brought a few principles into play.
Firstly, "Ten hours observation is worth one hours work".
You are best served by not racing out into the garden and commencing digging and planting straight away.
The best thing is to just take the time to observe your garden first.
My sort of client. While
I stood around and took pictures,
Eric weeded the vege bed.
See where the shade lies in the morning, follow the sun and see where it lies in the afternoon.
Observe the slope, know where the water wants to run.
Observe what weeds are growing, but don't pull them out.
All of these can be useful when observed.
On a side note, as a professional gardener the last thing my clients want to hear is that I want to stand around looking at their garden for ten hours, while being paid.
However, if I did do that, I would be able to save them more hours of my paid labour time as the seasons move.
Why is that?
Well, take the weeds.
When I was studying Agriculture at high school with our great teacher Lindsay Cartwright, he defined a weed for us, to wit: "a plant growing in the wrong place."
I did struggle with this definition, it seemed laughably simplistic, but now I can (thirty years later) see that it is a good definition.
Thus, the cherry tomatoes in the pic above are technically a weed.
But of course they are nice to eat, and since they grow themselves, volunteer is the technical term, they can stay.
Many old school gardeners think you need to plant things by themselves, as the weeds take away vital nutrients.
I have rarely found this to be true, and often growing together has other, greater advantages.
In this case, the tomatoes are benefiting very nicely from the shade of the pumpkin leaves.
And when you think about it, if your garden is all volunteers, like the cherry toms here, then you have very little work to do except pick the fruit.
Other weeds tell a story as well.
Part of your observation is to see what weeds are there.
This will tell you a lot about what will grow in your garden.
Wandering Dew (tradescantia) for instance tells you where the dew falls heaviest, and so you should grow plants that need lots of water there, Penny Royal, Nasturtiums and Watercress are three.
If your soil is hard underfoot with few or no weeds growing, then plant Comfrey.
Comfrey has a hard, sharp drilling tap root, which breaks up the soil and allows air and moisture to get to the sub layers of soil.
A common weed up here is Farmers Friend, or Cobbler's Peg.
It's not clear why they are known as "Farmers Friends", most likely because the thorns cling to your clothing, and so after working with them for a very short space of time, the farmers shirt is covered with the things, and thus due to the clinginess they are known as your friends.
However, I have found that a better use of the name is that they provide perfect planting holes for you as the gardener.
Farmers Friend
Pull one up and when the roots are out you have a perfectly formed hole with the soil around it broken up to plant your desired plant in.
Also in Permaculture, biodynamic, crop-rotated, call it what you will, gardening, one very important aspect of home gardening is to give your soil time to rest.
Eric almost certainly wouldn't call himself a Permaculture gardener, but as this pic(right) shows, he is doing it perfectly.
Here's me looking (as usual) dorky behind Eric's other vege bed, next to the one with the pumpkins and cherry toms.
This bed has had all plants removed, then covered with mulch, and now is just resting.
The soil will recover, the little animals that live in there will have a chance to rejuvenate the ground, and when the time comes a new rage of plants will go in there.
And on the topic, when will we plant there?
Well, it goes against everything we white visitors to Australia know from our northern ancestry, but here in the sub tropics, we wait for Autumn to plant.
In Europe and north America of course spring is the time to plant.
Try that here and the moment spring turns to summer your plants will die a thirsty death.
So Autumn, though it comes with decreasing day length, is a better time temperature wise to get things going.

Next, I've mentioned recently that a greater numbers of North American readers have come
in, and so am going to provide a few clarifications to help them.
Firstly, Byron Bay, my current home town.
Byron is the Australian analogue of Portland, Oregon.
Both towns are built on the hippy culture.
Peace, love and mung beans.
The two photos how the similarities between the two towns.
My home town of Bathurst is best exemplified in the US by Wichita, Kansas, or Omaha, Nebraska.
I once read in a novel somewhere a character saying, "admitting your from Omaha is like admitting you've got gonorrhea".
I didn't like my home town, though many do, and presumably many like Omaha, though why is still a question.
Sydney is a combination of New York and LA, a beach side capital with a heavy cultural overtone.
Melbourne is Chicago.
Our national capital, Canberra, is best matched by Little Rock, Arkansas.
Of wordage, 'pissed' is a common source of confusion.
In Australia it means drunk, in the US it means angry.
I remember once staying in a backpackers with many US visitors.
One afternoon I sat down at the common table and said, "Man, I was pissed last night."
A young American said "Oh, why was that?"
I looked at her in some confusion and said, 'because I drank fifteen pints of beer."
We then continued for a while till we understood we were using the word differently.
NB: The next day she came in and said, "I drank ten vodkas last night and I can tell you I wasn't pissed at all, I was very, very happy."
Fanny is another.
In the US it means your backside, in Australia it means a women's sexual organs.
With fertile field for confusion and embarrassment.
This was best exemplified by Bill Bryson, an American, married to an Englishwoman and lived in Yorkshire for twenty years.
One Saturday Bill's wife spent most of the day preparing for a dinner party.
When the guests arrived and were seated, Bill announced, "I'm sure you'll love this food, my wife has been busting her fanny all day to prepare it."
With, as you can imagine, some hard to describe looks from the assembled English guests.
Another one I came across recently is 'biased', meaning heavily favouring one side over another.
When I wrote it, with two esses, as I thought it was spelled, the red line came on under it showing it was misspelled.
I took out an ess and the red line disappeared.
This website, Blogspot, is American, so I realized that this was the American spelling.
And here's why.
In the States they say 'ass' for backside, we say 'arse'.
So by writing 'biassed' like this, I was effectively saying that the person in question had two bums, as in bi-plane and bi-cycle.
Actually, considering I was writing about no-brain senator Ian Macdonald this was stunningly accurate.
He has got two arses, one at the top of his legs and one where his head should be.
Which brings up the eternal wrangle over whether American spelling is wrong or just different.
Americans tend to go for logical, phonetic spellings, while we here in Australia and the UK, stick to more arcane usage.
So in the US they would write 'nite' and 'lite', while we would spell it, 'night' and 'light'.
I don't mind the US usage as it makes more sense, particularly for those learning English as a second language.
Realise has an ess in Oz, but a zed(zee) in the US.
I have adopted the zed spelling as the word is pronounced with a buzzing, zed-style sound.
Programme and program have been raised lately, with our no-brain Prime Minister saying we must use the 'programme' spelling, as its older and 'more better' (His words).
Turns out the US usage, one em, no ee, is correct, and has been in place since the eighth century.
I might add, the word 'Fall' for Autumn is an old English word, used by Shakespeare, among others.
Why it thrived in the US and fell away here is uncertain.
Other word usages are different, but don't lead to confusion.
Americans say sidewalk, we say footpath.
We say pedestrian crossing, North Americans say cross walk.
We say four-wheel drive, in the US it's an SUV(Suburban Utility Vehicle).
Even there, I think you can see that the American usage is more accurate in this modern day.
Here in NSW there are more SUVs registered to city addresses than farms.
Four-wheel drives were classically the work vehicle for farmers.
These days they are the work vehicle of the soccer-mum, bought with the laughable idea that they are safer.
As is well documented, more children are hit by four-wheel drives in the driveway of the family home than on the road.
Anyway, I have been busting my (American usage) fanny all morning on this column, so now it's time to go surfing.
Here is the joke.
A guy goes into a pub.
The pub's entertainment is a guy playing the piano while a monkey dances on top of the piano cabinet.
The guy orders a beer and when it is placed in front of him he takes a sip, then puts it down and looks around the pub.
At the same time the piano player turns on his stool and sings around to the audience in the pub.
The Monkey, quick as a wink, jumps down off the piano, runs up the bar and dips his bollocks in the customer's beer.
Then he withdraws and runs back to the piano and resumes his dancing.
The customer sees him do it, but is not quick enough to stop him.
So he turns to the barman and says, "Hey that monkey just stuck his balls in my beer."
The barman says, "Oh, shit, sorry mate, he does that if you take your eye off him, let me get you another."
He pours another beer and places it in front of the customer.
Now the customer crooks his arm around the beer and keeps an eye on the monkey.
But as the beer goes down his attention wanders and he goes to light a cigarette.
Again the monkey, sees his chance, runs down the bar, and dips his balls in the beer.
At this the customer gets up, goes over to the piano player and says, "Hey mate, do you know your monkey keeps dipping his balls in my beer?"
The pianist, still playing, replies, "No, but if you hum a few bars, I'll see if I can play along".
See you next week for more appalling jokes and large amounts of prose garbage.

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