Tag Archives: burning-off

Warrandyte – burning off in the rain

That pile of ash and charcoal is all that’s left of a huge pile of dead branches, windfall and prunings that I’ve been collecting all winter.

I know it doesn’t look like much now, but that pile was becoming a real danger so, it had to go. And what better time to burn it off than when everything’s nice and wet!

“But isn’t it too wet to burn?” you ask.

Nope. It rained quite heavily early this morning and at 7:00 am, everything was quite wet, including the outer layer of the pile. Inside, however, that pile was dry and ready to burn. I crumpled up a few sheets of scrap paper and shoved them underneath the pile. Then I put a couple of firelighters on top of the paper and set it alight. In an hour, the original pile and huge armfuls of very wet windfall were all gone.

I suspect most of you know where I’m going with this; branch and leaf litter burn extraordinarily well, so if you live in and around Warrandyte, clean up your property now, before everything dries out and the whole area turns into a tinderbox.

Okay, now I’m going to collapse and not move for a while. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 

 

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To the mothers of Yarra Warra Pre-school in #Warrandyte [1]

warrandyte mist at dawnLadies, I know you have small children, and I know you’re run off your feet. You never have a minute to yourself, and sometimes you can’t even go to the loo on your own.

Am I right? I know I am. Nevertheless, as a mother too, albeit a very old one, I ask that you have a look at the questions below:

  1. Do you live on a bush block – i.e. a block with a lot of native vegetation, including eucalyptus trees?
  2. Can you see dead fall [broken branches] in your garden?
  3. Has the wind blown eucalyptus leaves up against the house and fence?
  4. Does your partner work during the week – i.e. is your partner away from the house from Monday to Friday?
  5. Is your bushfire plan to leave?
  6. Have you ever tried to reach the bridge over the Yarra during peak hour traffic?

The more times you answered ‘yes’ to these six questions, the more this post relates to you.

Questions 1 – 3 relate to how bushfire prone your house and land may be.

Questions 4 – 6 relate to what you intend to do if a bushfire threatens. In a best case scenario, the bushfire strikes during the weekend when your partner is home. You all evacuate early and the traffic moves in an orderly fashion. The fire has been an inconvenience, but it never even got close to the house so after a couple of hours, life continues as normal.

But fires do not respect human schedules, so it is far more likely that a bushfire will threaten you on the five days of the week your partner is not at home. You still plan to leave with your children, but you get stuck in the bottleneck around the bridge, along with all the others planning to leave. What then?

Or in an even worse case scenario, what if you’re human like most people, and decide to ‘wait and see’ whether it’s worthwhile packing grumpy kids into the car along with even grumpier pets. By the time you do decide to leave, getting stuck in the bottleneck over the bridge may be a million times more dangerous than staying put.

But…you always planned on leaving so neither you nor your partner bothered reducing the fuel load around your house. Now you’re stuck. You can’t leave and you can’t stay. To my mind, this is the worst possible scenario and it happened, on Black Saturday.

I’m not trying to be a scaremonger, but I am trying to burst the ‘she’ll be right’ bubble. If you want to live in Warrandyte you must plan for the worst case scenario, not the best.

And that brings me back to questions 1 – 3. Even if you plan on leaving very early on every single high fire danger day over summer, you must make sure you have a fighting chance in case things go pear-shaped and you can’t leave.

In order to have that fighting chance, you must make time to:

  1. gather deadfall into heaps – in clearings, not under trees, and
  2. burn the piles off while the weather is cool, damp and NOT WINDY!

Yes, ladies, I’m using the word ‘you’ for one, very good reason – no matter how conscientious your partner may be, he is only going to be available on weekends. That’s 2 days out of 7. What’s the chance that the wind is not going to blow on the day he has free? This year? Less than 50/50.

I don’t know what’s happened to the weather this year but it seems to have been blowing a gale every second day. That, or it’s pouring with rain. Clear, calm days on which it’s safe to burn off have been rare, so it’s become vital that burning off happens whenever the weather allows. Sadly that may only be during the week…when your partner is at work.

What? You expect me to light fires with tiny children hanging around my feet? Are you crazy? Not possible!

Sadly, I’m not crazy, and it is necessary. It is also possible, but not without effort.

I don’t have a small child anymore, but at 63, I know exactly how tiring this job can be because I’m the Mama-Papa in our family. In your family, you may need to ask slightly older children to help Mummy pick up sticks and put them in lots of little piles. You may have to light those tiny piles while the kids are having a nap, or are at pre-school, or with Grandma. You may have to form groups with other pre-school Mums and help each other with child minding while the rest of you do the burning off.

However you do it, though, reducing the fuel load is a must because Warrandyte is a tinderbox waiting to burn. Most of the area is densely covered in Red Box and we are only allowed to clear trees in a ten metre radius around the house. To clear any further out, we have to apply to Nillumbik council for a permit and those permits are never granted.

Red Box are eucalypt trees, and like most gums, their leaves contain volatile oils that burn exceedingly well. The idea behind this evolutionary development is that the oils help the fire sweep through quickly, burning the branches and leaves but leaving the trunk intact. Once the fire is over, eucalypts can re-grow from the trunk, not just the roots. Great for the trees, not so great for us.

The following excerpt is taken from gardening advice developed for NSW but is appropriate for Victoria as well:

Plants in the Myrtaceae family, such as Eucalyptus, Melaleuca and Leptospermum, contain oil glands in the leaves and are more inclined to burn and to spread fire. Plants such as these should be well away from houses. Tall trees, at an appropriate distance from a house can make good barriers to ember attack. The key is to not plant a grove of the same species, but to have trees such as a gum tree or tea-tree in isolation with a well-cleared area below.

Here in Warrandyte, we don’t have the option of not planting ‘a grove of the same species’. For this reason, clearing the fuel load beneath the trees becomes vitally important. If we can stop a fire from getting up into the canopy, we have a fighting chance.

In the next article in this series, I’m going to assume that many women with pre-school children are as clueless about burning off [safely] as I was. I’ll explain about the best weather conditions in which to do domestic burning off, and I’ll detail how I do things.

cheers

Meeks

 


Bushfire danger – burning off on high wind days

Courtesy Shannon Buxton

Courtesy Shannon Buxton

Despite countless examples of bushfires triggered by controlled burns gone wrong – set by professionals, mind you – some dick donkey is burning off today. I can see the smoke rising up through the trees across the valley from my house.

It’s not hot, yet, but there’s a strong north-easterly blowing, and wind is the element that turns an ordinary bushfire into a potential inferno.

Burning off on a windy day is just asking for trouble. Gum leaves burn even when they’re fresh and green.

Unfortunately, today hasn’t been declared a day of Total Fire Ban, so there’s not much I can do about Donkey-Boy across the valley. All I can do is sit, rant, and hope he’s standing next to that fire with a garden hose at the ready.

The thing that worries me most, though, is that Donkey-Boy probably thinks he’s doing the ‘right’ thing. He probably works all week, and only has the weekend for chores, including fire prevention chores. He probably had other chores to do yesterday, when it was warm but windless. So today he’s catching up. Yay.

I don’t know exactly which house belongs to Donkey-Boy because there is a sea of trees between my house and his, but I know the general position. Up on that hillside are a number of brand new houses. I can only assume the residents are also new to Warrandyte. Clearly they know enough to clear up the fuel load on their properties, but they don’t know enough to know when it’s safe to do so.

To be fair, it did rain heavily two days ago, so the chance of a fire going out of control is minimal, but you’d be amazed at how quickly things can dry out in Warrandyte. One day the ground is soft and moist, the next you can hear gum leaves crackling underfoot. The reason is the lack of deep topsoil and the steep terrain. Rain tends to run off before it has a chance to soak deep into the clay subsoil. Ergo, things dry out, fast.

And we have a mono-culture of red box gums.

Let me tell you a story about gums. This story was told to me by my whippersnipper man*. He was working up in the foothills of the Dandenongs a couple of years ago, and he was burning off on a day similar to this one. It was windy and embers floated up in the air. Nothing caught fire at ground level though.

Once the fire was out, my whippersnipper man made sure the coals were safe, packed up and went home. An hour later he received a panicked call from his client : one of the gums was smoking. He raced back and was just in time to stop the whole canopy from going up in flames.

“What on earth happened?” I asked, half wondering if he was pulling my leg. He wasn’t.

Apparently an ember had floated up into the gum tree, landed in a fork and smouldered until it had enough oomph to burn.True story.

So the moral of this post is to do your homework, and not do burning off on windy days.

And in case you’re wondering, there’s still a bit of smoke curling up above the trees, but the wind has died down, and there are rain clouds coming in. Looks like neither Donkey-Boy nor I will have to put our fire plans into action today, for which I am truly thankful.

cheers

Meeks

* For my northern hemisphere friends, whippersnipper = brushcutter.


Flash fiction vote, Meeka fumée, and FFXIV A Realm Reborn

Yes, it’s going to be one of those posts. Let’s start with some pretty pictures, shall we?

First off we have Meeka Thara, one of my female toons on Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn.

Meeka Thara

Followed by two of my boys.  This one is Takh Ahn

tahn ahn

And last but not least we have Nikko Tahn

nikko tahn

The reason I’m foisting these photos onto you non-gamers is because I’m so taken with the graphics. All of these photos show in-game graphics, not the super-dooper animations they did for the game trailer.  Computer graphics truly have come one hell of a long way in the last decade. And I have to say, Final Fantasy XIV has come an even longer way from its first launch.  Version 2 – A Realm Reborn – is everything we Final Fantasy fans were hoping for, and didn’t get with version 1. I feel as if I’ve finally come home again. Thank you Square Enix. 🙂

The odd bit of french in the title basically translates as smoked-Meeka – you know, like smoked salmon but not so pink. 🙂 I’ve just spent 5 hours burning off in my back yard and I reek. Even the dog is giving me strange looks and she’s not known for her discerning taste. Nonetheless, I’m done, and I’m relieved. All, and I mean all of the storm damage has now been tidied up and I’m that much closer to having my block ready for the coming fire season. Phew.

And finally, a request. Some of you have read my flash fiction entry for this week’s competition. Now I’m asking you to read the other entries because, sadly, they’re bloody good. I still like my story, but I suspect I’ll be voting for Jon Jefferson’s entry, it’s that good.

Anyone can vote so please check the entries out and make your mark on the future of some very good indie writers. You can see all the entries here :

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/09/07/flash-fiction-challenge-the-headsmans-block/

Okay, that’s it, I’m done. Now I’m going to spend a long time in the shower so the dog will like me again. 😉

cheers

Meeks


Lemon oil, solar power, burning off, budgets and saving money.

The one thing all the items in my title have in common is… money. Or to be more exact, my growing awareness that my old age is going to be rather grim unless I become a lot more careful with money. Thanks to an inheritance from my late father, I’ve had two stress free years in which to write, but now, as I approach my 60th birthday, I have to start getting serious about money again.

The first thing I decided was that I was going to use my inheritance to pay off my mortgage because I didn’t want that huge monthly expenditure hanging over my head for the rest of my life. I can do it, but getting rid of the mortgage will reduce my rainy day nest egg to something microscopic. Not so good. Hence the need to budget.

Now, if you’re like me, you probably just pay your bills and shove them into a draw somewhere without ever really keeping track of how much you’re spending every month. Yes, I know that some of you are very organized and keep track of your bills but… the rest of us need something a little easier. If you use internet banking to pay your bills then there is an easier way. Every internet banking application has a ‘Payment history’ function and a ‘Payee list’. They’re not there just for show! You can use the two functions to get a quick idea of your previous year’s expenditures. Basically, I just went through my payee list, looking up all my regular payments. I typed them into a spreadsheet and in a very short space of time I had a pretty good idea of my average monthly spend.

The good thing about having this kind of information in black and white is that you can no longer fool yourself about those ‘little’ indulgences. For me those little indulgences included monthly subscriptions to two mmo’s, neither of which I’m currently playing. [I’m now playing GW2 which is free-to-play]. It hurt to cancel those subscriptions, but in doing so I saved myself close to $500 per year.

I won’t bore you with details of all the areas where I’ve cut back, but I’d like to mention two other ways of saving money – lemon oil and effective use of solar power. No, the two don’t go together! Lemon oil is a great way of cutting multiple, commercial, cleaning products off your shopping list and out of your life. My tips on solar are for those who have solar panels and want to make the most of them.

I’ll start with lemon oil. You can buy a bottle of lemon oil for the price of two commercial cleaners but it will last through the life of about five commercial cleaners, plus you’ll have the satisfaction of having a house that smells wonderful and isn’t suffocating you with potentially dangerous chemicals.

To use the lemon oil for cleaning, just get a clean, empty spray bottle and pour about 1/2 an inch of lemon oil into the bottom. Add a few drops of biodegradable dishwashing detergent and some water. The amount of water you add depends on the type of cleaning you need to do. I’m a very messy cook so my cooktop is always covered in dried on food splashes. To clean the cooktop, I use a fairly concentrated solution made with only a few tablespoons of water. For benchtops and other less greasy areas you can dilute the lemon oil with a cup or more of water.

Until today, I’d only used my homemade lemon oil cleaner on benchtops, but on a whim I sprayed my grubby cooktop with lemon oil just to see what would happen. I left it to soak for about 5 minutes and then went back, expecting to have to do some serious scrubbing. Imagine my delight when the gunge came off with a simple swipe of the sponge! It was like watching one of those commercials where Wonder Product wipes away dirt and grime as if by magic. Well, it is magic, the magic of tv, because I’ve tried a couple of those Wonder Products and they never work as advertised. My lemon oil did though. 😀 The gunge truly did come off like a dream!

Now to solar. I’ve had solar panels for about a year now, and although they have helped to reduce my electricity bills, those bills are still higher than they could be. I was scratching my head about this when I was hit by the obvious – the amount you get from feeding electricity into the electricity grid is less than what you pay when you draw electricity from the grid. I told you it was obvious. But how to take advantage of that knowledge? Again, the answer is simple. If your washing machine and dishwasher have a scheduling function then set both to run during the day, while the sun is shining on your lovely solar panels. Or try and do as much as you can during the weekends when you’re home.

Another little thing I discovered once my mind was focused on cost savings, was that you do NOT have to allow your dishwasher to use the ‘dry’ function. Quite simply, the dishes are nice and hot when the wash/rinse cycle finishes. They will air dry, inside the dishwasher, without the need to apply extra, expensive heat. It’s like washing dishes by hand in hot water and then letting them air-dry in the draining rack.

The final thing I want to talk about today is burning off. In the past I have ordered a skip just before fire season and filled it to the brim with dead branches as well as broken appliances etc. This year I’ve been getting out there every still day and burning small piles of leaves and branches to prepare for fire season. It’s time consuming and I end up smelling like a smoked ham but I’m happy in the knowledge that a) my property will be less fire prone and b) I can save the cost of a skip.

None of the things I’ve mentioned save you that much, individually, but add them up and you’ll be surprised by how much you can save. 😀

If you have money saving tips, please tell me about them in comments. I’m sure other bloggers would love to read them as well!

cheers

Meeks

 

 


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