Tag Archives: fire season

Warrandyte, spring, and mowing

For newcomers to my blog, I live on 1.6 acres in Warrandyte, a hilly, tree-covered, fringe suburb of Melbourne [Australia]. It’s a glorious place to live, in winter. Over summer, not so much. Eucalyptus trees burn, and we have an awful lot of them.

The potential fire danger in Warrandyte has been a recurring theme almost from the moment I first started this blog. In fact, one of the very first posts I ever wrote is called ‘2012 – practical tips to protect life and property from bushfires‘. This year’s post is going to be a visual treatise on why mowing is vital to reduce fire danger.

I’ll start with the area directly behind the house. It faces northish, pretty much on the top of a hill, and is the most likely direction for a bushfire. I have a roughly 15 metre space between the house and the trees:

A relatively flat terrance stepping down the hill

This is how every inch of my block should look. Now for the reality check:

The dividing line

This shot is of the next terrace down. You can see exactly where the mowing stopped.

And on the other side….

Some of you may recognize this area from the blog banner, or the cover of Miira. In the foreground is a gently sloping terrace held back by large field stones. The next terrace down is half mowed, and again, you can see the dividing line between mowed and not mowed.

In this screenshot you can see the same area from the side:

A gentle slope, Warrandyte style

The unmowed grass is so tall, it makes the slope on the left of the pic look ‘flat’. It’s not. About a metre further down the terrace drops to another level.

So why is the mowing taking so long? And why am I soooo exhausted? Well, I’m mowing every inch of this block with an Ozito battery driven lawn mower:

My Ozito battery powered lawn mower

I LOVE my Ozito. This little mower is not supposed to mow blocks like mine. It’s supposed to be a lightweight solution for little old ladies mowing pocket handkerchief lawns. You know what I mean, the pretty ones that have real grass instead of field grasses and weeds. And yet, this amazing little mower is getting through grass that’s almost knee high.

In my own defence, I have to say that I started mowing as soon as I finished burning off the piles of dead wood that had accumulated over winter. Unfortunately, I’d barely done half of the front of the block when we had a massive storm that dropped some very big branches and a shitload of smaller ones. I paid to have the big ones cut up and carted away, but I had to deal with the little ones myself. [Little as in under 2 metres long].

As a result of that storm, mowing had to stop while I walked up and down 1.6 acres picking up dead wood, putting it into piles – roughly 8 – and burning it all off again.

But it’s Spring, right? So while I was busy doing other things, the grass was busy growing. So here we are, Ozi and me, desperately trying to catch up because once that grass dries out, it will be like kindling to any fire that decides to come through.

Warrandyte is a wonderful place to live, but enjoying the ‘serenity’ is not enough. We have to maintain our properties so that they will be less likely to burn when the inevitable happens. And on that note I’d better grab the batteries and get out there.

Stay well,
Meeks


Windows

Eyes may be the windows to the soul, but windows are the weakest link in our homes. Because they’re fragile. Because they break.

It seems like such an obvious thing now, but I remember how shocked I was when an expert pointed out that the inside of our homes is the driest place on earth. Once a window breaks, even one ember is enough to burn the house down from the inside out.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Yet how many of us have adequate protection for our windows?

When I built my house in Warrandyte, I had to put metal mesh screens over all the windows that could be opened. But my house has double barrel windows where the top pane opens but the bottom pane is fixed. The top pane is protected by the required metal screen [basically an ordinary fly wire screen but made of metal]. The bottom pane is not.

Now, imagine a bushfire scenario. The wind is howling, and the gums are dropping branches large and small. One of those branches is blown towards the house and slams into one of my windows. The top pane may remain intact, but what of the bottom pane?

Yes. Exactly.

I solved my window problem by investing in fire resistant shutters. These shutters cover the entire window area, top pane, bottom pane and the wooden frame. They look like this:

The shutters roll up and down inside the frame [like vertical sliding doors] and are rated to protect the windows for about 20 minutes. That’s the length of time it usually takes the fire front to pass.

The regulations have been tightened up a lot since Black Saturday, and I believe that new houses in fire prone areas must have toughened glass instead of ordinary glass. But what of existing houses? As far as I know, there are no regulations about retrofitting toughened glass to houses built before 2009.

Does that mean there is no danger to those houses? Of course not.

If you live in a bushfire prone area, please think hard about your windows, and what you can do to protect them.

Stay safe.

Meeks


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