July 9th, 2008


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Discussion (24)¬

  1. Ix says:

    “Nature is loud” about sums it up. When we’re ready for sleep, there’s a whole host of other things that are just getting up – and if you think birds are noisy in the morning, you’ve never tried sleeping near crickets. Worse than birds, any day – birds at least shut up now and again.

  2. UCGV Defenestration says:

    You just have to remind them that you’re part of nature too – the part that likes to eat them, if they don’t make their presence subtle. 🙂

  3. Kasper says:

    I imagine Digger would be very sensitive to noise during sleep-periods. The Warren is probably mostly dug out, so no construction, and several feet of solid material between you and any “nature” that might want to disturb your sleep.

  4. BunnyRock says:

    Heh. Digger isn’t a hunter gatherer OR a farmer. Cleaning a rabbit might seem like a lot of work for minimal food, but have you seen what sort of threshing an processing goes into getting a kilo of wheat? Without modern machinery? That’s why hunter-gatherer communities are small and farming ones big. one has less effort but needs more land to support it, the other requires VAST amounts of effort to keep running. In osteoarchaeology, you can tell when the Neolithic kicks in- farmers have terrible osteological health compared to hunters. It’s only worth it if you have a big population to support or are trying to expand or compete with other farmers.

    Then again, i guess a sentient hyena would HAVE to be a hunter-gatherer. I mean, what are you going to do? farm plants you cant eat or try and heard or rear animals that go crazy with fear at the sight or scent of you? good luck.

    That also makes me think, whats a Wombat warren’s footprint in the landscape? i mean compared to say, grimes graves flint mine which required the support, its calculated, of every farm in at least eight kilometers to function in the neolithic, and had maybe a hundred workers. Improvements in farming and mining efficiency allowed for, Digger’s home warren must be trading ore or finished products really far afield just to support itself. we know they farm roots, tubers and moles, but even a few hundred miners who don’t farm require a lot of farmers to support them. an entire city with mining and smiting or other non-agricultural craft specialists? Theyd look like a black hole in a food production/consumption map. and a tower in a mineral or manufactured goods wealth map. Between those three, we’ve got all the major economic tactics; utterly self reliant but little surplus (the hyenas finished nearly all their food stores in the two days the Shadowchild stooped them hunting) reliant on farming but close to the farming community, and can’t tell cow tracks from horse and has no interest in farming or the 101 goat illnesses but highly skilled and utterly reliant on a cash economy based on specialist Secondary and Tertiary industry.

  5. Brennan says:

    I still love you BunnyRock.

  6. Eugene says:

    Damn. That’s one hell of an analysis!

    I think I’d go further and say their footprint is even smaller than that. Being that they’re effectively a culture of atheists, there are probably no heavily marked gravesites or structures built for worship. Their pragmatism seems to preclude any sort of extravagance at all, actually, leaving only their pick axes as candidates for archaeological discovery. And mining seems to only partially be for ore and gems. She often takes great pains to separate her people from Dwarves, who are well known for having a heavily export-fueled economy. So it’s probable that their system of taxation and currency is completely self-contained, either within each warren or within a Wombat-specific region to the exclusion of non-Wombats. And it makes sense that they would have little use for more complex forms of farming, since they’re perfectly capable of just eating grass. That would be like living in a meadow where cooked steak grows naturally from the ground. Or at least hamburgers.

  7. TekServer says:

    *mental image of hamburger farming*



  8. Sammi says:

    I want a hamburger farm. o.o

  9. Remick0 says:

    Now you guys have reminded me of the end of WALL-E.
    “See this kids? These things called seeds, you plant them in the ground, and it grows PIZZA!”

  10. Mark Antony says:

    On the other hand, it’s likely that not every wombat is like Digger. It’s very much possible that a warren starts off with overland agriculture, but as it grows underground, it becomes able to support itself via root crops, tubers, and mushrooms by digging sufficiently large networks of gardens (large caverns would be too potentially unstable for long-term use). We know that wombats mine, but that might not be all they do. It could be just that everyone needs to know how to dig. Farmers need to know how to dig, as that’s how you increase the area of your gardens. Mole ranchers need to know how to dig in order to provide for the moles (and keep track of them). I mean, sure, you’d end up with a warren that several hundred miles across, but it’s all underground anyways and they’re digging all day and there are thousands of them digging at once.

    Oh, man, a completely self-reliant underground city of wombats would be so cool.

  11. TekServer says:

    The warrens likely wouldn’t get QUITE that big. At least not “several hundred miles across”; remember, one of the joys of building underground is the ease of using all three dimensions.

    (Remember the cross-section of the Hive from Resident Evil? A decent example of efficient underground construction … )


  12. BunnyRock says:

    To be honest, Digger passed comment to the Hag on the lack of efficiency of some farmer drainage ditches back in Rath village, so I’ll concede the notion of wombat farmers, but I’d still guess the surface impact of even a small warren would be huge in terms of food consumed; you’d need a few hundred Diggers to set up a decent deep mining operation, albeit a lot less to keep it running once its started, and a hundred or so people, even if they are marsupials eating grass and so outside of the ususal archaeological definition of “people”, who contribute little DIRECTLY to food production because they work full time on something else is a heck of a drain on the local farmers. But i’d imagine that wombat farming would be every bit as efficient as eventing else they do, and so the image of a few nice surface vegetable farms or hay-meadows and some well-managed coppiced woodland for pit-prop timber and charcoal burning fits comfortably in my mind… right next to the hell caused by some dwarfs trying to farm by magic and ending up with a harvest that makes the fighting tomatoes of Ganesha look like a breeze by comparison.

  13. Mark Antony says:

    I was more picturing a well-engineered system of mirrors that provide sunlight to tiered subterranean farms and greenhouses. I have no idea how well that would work, but if anyone could do it, it’d be a wombat warren. It would let them farm without the limitations of vast overland fields and it would protect the crops from a lot of the usual threats (weather, bugs, etc.). They would be able to control much more of the crop development, from amount of sunlight to water and temperature, allowing for very efficient farming.

    Oh, and I’ll bet that of all the craziest and most unspeakable things that Manuel encounters on his journeys, a dwarven garden is the worst.

  14. Mark Antony says:

    Oh, and @Tekserver: You’re right. I forgot they could dig down.

  15. TekServer says:

    I hope we get to meet some of these mysterious, over-magicked dwarves somewhere along this storyline …


  16. Sildraug says:

    I eagerly anticipate the usage of the phrase “loose cannon dwarf on the edge.”

  17. StinkyOldBear says:

    First, just because Digger knows how to dig an efficient drainage ditch does not mean that wombats use them. After all, we know that they are miners/excavators for hire, so they may know how to build something they do not use themselves.

    Also, I want to point out that Digger is NOT an atheist, nor is she an agnostic. She does not question the existence of gods, nor does she deny that they exist at all; rather, Digger is (as BunnyRock said a few posts ago) an nay-theist. She recognizes that there are divine beings, and says no to them. Very very difference.

    Finally, wombats could farm fungus and mushrooms — things that grow underground and without light. Not impossible, by any stretch. Then, their underground “farms” would be using their already dug holes and tunnels for food, would use up their waste, etc. This would not be an inefficient use of their space, though it may not be perfect, either. Finally, it is worth noting that wombats are herbivores, not omnivores like humans (we can eat anything, our teeth tell us so). Thus, with no need for meat, farms can be dedicated to the most efficient crops known to wombat. Potatoes, for example, or grasses and weeds.

    But then again, what do I know. You all should probably listen to BR anyway.

  18. spellwing777 says:

    Actually, cleaning isent too messy-once a critters dead, thier is minimal bleeding so long as you wait more than five mineuts; the blood clots and turns into a gel at an hour. Its even less messy if you cut the throat, hang the corspe upside down, and let the blood drain. And everything-well, except for the lower parts of the intestines and the bones themselves-can be eaten. Even the toughest bits, like feet, can be eaten so long as they simmer in a stew longe enough; and you can crack the bones apart for the marrow, which spreads on bread rather nice. Skulls you boil in order to make what is known as ‘headcheese’; adding in garlic before the broth cools and congels.

    And, if your a hyena, you can even eat the bones AND those intestines. I’m rather envious of thier digestion; vultures hate picking at thier leftovers because the most they leave is maybe the hooves and horns, maybe not even that.

  19. glenchild says:

    And this, this discussion right here, is exactly why I’m rereading this comic – to catch all the comments!

    Only a small handful of webcomics I’ve read (and I’ve read WAY too many) attract an audience of intelligent, educated, curious, and/or geeky readers that add so much to the comic via discussion. I’ve learned any number of interesting things just by reading the comments (or googling something in the comics).

    Kudos to Ursula for creating such an intelligent, thought-provoking comic, and kudos to all the commenters!

  20. JET73L says:

    BunnyRock: Perhaps you mean smelting? I expect smiting would need only a single irritated wombat. Not that I’m one to talk about (possible) tpoegraphical errors.

    This is an interesting conversation. I had always just assumed that they had farms of fungi and other underground crops, and the tubers and root vegetables were grown on the surface and harvested from underground, where the harvest doubled as the tilling. I don’t think it would be very efficient to try underground harvestig with the human methods of planting crops, but it’s possible that wombats brace near-surface tunnels and add extra drainage, plant seeds in uncovered spaces in the ceiling with a temporary scaffolding to keep the planted dirt from falling before the plant takes root, and then just go in and pull the vegetables out of the spaces in the bracing through which they were planted on dry days while the irrigation is being diverted or reduced so the tunnels don’t risk flooding.

  21. Inquisitive Raven says:


    For the record, mushrooms are fungi, or at least their reproductive organs.

  22. Shadw21 says:

    @StinkyOld Bear: Growing mushrooms can be efficient if set up probably, especially since some of them can be grown with a lot of vertical space instead of horizontal space. Since alot of edible mushrooms seem to require some amount of light to fruit they could be set up to grow near the surface with some sort of surface window shutter system. Also the mushroom waste from growing mushrooms can be used to help grow plants, which would only increase the efficiency of their farming practices, whatever they are.

    The wombats could also be growing edible mushrooms with food and bodily waste

  23. BunnyRock says:

    [BunnyRock looks at the ever-increasing list of comments that have less and less to do with Ursula’s finely crafted plot and cringes]

    Dear god… I’ve created a Monster! 🙂
    Well, not really. Monster-et,. More sort of a Monster-ling really. You know I love these tangents.
    Actually, I presumed tubers and roots plated and harvested…well..i in pretty much the usual human way. Harvesting from underground or growing them underground just seems like too much effort for tubers, though it should work a treat with mushrooms. Wombats seem just too practical to mess around with underground mirrors or plating root veg in the ceilings of near-surface tunnels when they could just walk around on the surface and do it. After all, there’s bugger all mineral deposits in most topsoil’s and the damned stuffs just going to waste otherwise. I’d pictured tubers as A, Ursula makes it clear that wombats make a alcoholic root beer from tubers and roots (or did on the old site) and B, they are ideal for an economy which is not solely farming based. It was recently postulated that part of the reason why European wars from about 1700 onwards were bigger and bloodier than any before was the potato. After all, good steel and firearms had been around since the 1400’s, but the humble spud could feed so many on such small areas of land you could afford to send most of your grain off with the troops and still have a though crop left behind for the civilians, it can’t be easily trampled or burned to the ground by bandits or hostile armies like cereal crops, it’s full of carbohydrates and requires, compared to cereal, next to no processing to eat. You can grub it up, with your bare hands if needed (useful for armies foraging in the felid, well… in someone’s field anyway), and cook it. Done. No reaping, threshing winnowing, second threshing, sorting, second winnowing milling, flour-grading and then finally the multi-stage palaver of bread-baking. to harvest and process unto edibility potatoes, you need two working arms and a fire, and possibly a spade and a big digging fork if you want to be posh (shovels have lips: as an archaeologist I can’t call something a shovel unless it curves up along the edges so loose material being shovelled cant fall out the sides. Likewise a spade has no lips and has to be able to be pushed into the ground with the foot). Admittedly, its more about the entire Colombian exchange and how things like understanding nitrogen-fixing, the enclosure act, the seed drill and other American crops revolutionised farming and allowed nations to support such huge Napoleonic armies, but the spud was still pretty important in all that. That’s why I guessed wombats would go for spuds and other hardy new-world tubers: they let you get on with other things, and support a big non-farmer population compared to a solely cereal-centric system, possibly with some secondry old-world root veg (parsnips. I love parsnips) and maybe clover every couple of growing seasons to keep the soil nitrogen rich. Plus if you’re a human farmer, clover is just a useful nitrogen fixer. If you’re a wombat it’s a delicious salad too!

    @JET73L: Dammit! the phantom dyslexia strikes again! I meant Smithing: as in any form of metal-working.

  24. TekServer says:

    Smiting, smithing, same thing … the only difference is where you aim the big hammer.