Tag Archives: fire-season

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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EmergencyAus – great tech support!

I recently wrote a post about a smartphone app called ‘EmergencyAus’. It was not a happy post because I was not getting all the available notifications about potential bushfires in my area.

[Note: one of the things I’ve always hated about summer/fire season in Warrandyte is the fear of not knowing when a fire is nearby. By the time ABC radio 774 broadcasts a warning, you’re already on the back foot. What the EmergencyAus app does is send SMS warnings to your smartphone whenever a fire starts anywhere in your ‘watch zone’, i.e. 5 km around my home. But in order to relax a bit, you have to trust that the alerts will get through to you.]

As well as ranting here, on my blog, I also sent off an email to the EmergencyAus tech support people.To be honest I did not expect tech support to do much – email support is very hard at the best of times.

Imagine my surprise, and delight, when I discovered that EmergencyAus tech support really do provide support. Not only did they finally sort out my problems, but they stuck with me through 28, yes TWENTY-EIGHT emails [I know because I just counted them]. That …is patience with a capital ‘P’!

With another hot day coming up, I’d like to say thank you to EmergencyAus for helping me get my peace of mind back. Thanks guys. 😀

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the problem seems to be an older version of Android teamed with Google apps that haven’t been updated since the year dot.

cheers

Meeks

 


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

 

 


Bushfire season 2011/12 is over

I hope I haven’t jinxed myself but I honestly can’t see how a fire could hit Warrandyte now – the air is crisp and cool, the grass is a vibrant green and you can almost smell autumn in the air…oh wait, that could be alpaca poop.

For those who don’t know, alpacas almost always poop in nice, discrete piles, as if they invented the idea of latrines. This highly civilized way of defecating means that you can walk around outside without having to wear gumboots all the time. Unfortunately it also means that the smell is rather concentrated. There is a pile of poop about 10 metres from my office window so when we have a  north wind blowing I have to seal the office off. Nonetheless I’m  not complaining. How could I when the alpacas have manicured the grass so nicely?

I have about 1/2 an acre out the back and at the moment it is as well cared for as a putting green! Except for the piles of poop of course; they look like small green volcanoes with a black caldera in the middle. The black part is the poop while the green part is the well fertilized grass around the poop. Not surprisingly the alpacas won’t eat the grass that’s too close to their piles. Can’t say I blame them but the green volcanoes do look a little odd.

Alpaca volcanoes aside though I am pleased to say that the alpaca experiment has been a qualified success. They have done a very good job of keeping the grass down directly around the house and their clawed toes are much kinder to the soil than other introduced grazers such as cattle or sheep. The one downside in using them as part of my fire prevention strategy is that they will only eat the native grasses when there is nothing else to munch on. This was partly my fault as I sowed some special alpaca feed* in the flat spots around the house during the last winter of the big drought. These grasses stay green even when the rest of the grass has gone your typical summer brown but with all the rain we’ve had the last couple of years the alpacas have been spoiled for choice and have ignored the brown stuff with disdain. Even so they have kept the area around the house well mowed and that is all I can ask for now. Come winter I am going to try and extend their pasture further downhill. If it doesn’t take because of the steepness of the slope I’ll have to think about putting in a bit more terracing [gah…more work].

So having alpacas is not a magic bullet but they are better than mowing by hand or, as seems to happen a lot in Warrandyte, not mowing at all. I know that everyone is busy and I know that many of the people in Warrandyte are new to the area but removing fuel load is part and parcel of living here. It is NOT an optional extra.

I know it’s not feasible but I’d love to see herds of alpacas wandering along Brogil  creek and keeping us all safe. They might be a bit of a traffic hazard but at least they’d do a better job of reducing the fuel load than Nillumbik Shire.

Yes, I know I’m a grumpy old ratepayer but you’d think that at $656 per quarter our local council could do something a little more practical than  telling us to clear out our gutters. Every time I receive one of their expensive newletters full of hot air and self congratulations I wonder how a shire that let, nay caused so many people to die on Black Saturday can escape all accountability.

-sigh-

I truly do wish that being elected to local council was like being chosen for jury duty – an unpleasant civic responsibility that no-one in their right mind would want to do. Then at least we might get some local government that was truly unbiased, a-political and not driven by ambition or self-interest. Come to think of it that could work at state and federal levels too…

Back to reality. Alpacas are herd animals and need the companionship of two or more of their kind or they get a bit psychotic – much like people in solitary confinement – so having just one is not a good idea. One way around this problem is to join together with your neighbours in owning and caring for them. I am one of a group of three neighbours and our four alpacas keep a total of about 2.5 acres mowed. To make things easier we invested in side gates that link our three properties. We all get on really well and that helps too.

The bottom line though is that Warrandyte is a fire prone area so if you live here then you must find some way of keeping the fuel load down on your own property. The danger may be past for this season but it will return and when the next fire does come through we will all be on our own so it makes sense to do what we can now.

If you don’t believe me do the math : there are three CFA fire stations dotted around Warrandyte, North Warrandyte and Research. As far as I know each of those fire stations has 2 fire trucks. That makes 6 in all yet even if there were twice that many they would not be enough to protect the 7393 people living in Warrandyte [2006 census figure].  So yes, the reality is that when the next bushfire sweeps through Warrandyte we will be on our own so doing things to help ourselves should be as much a part of the culture as enjoying the ‘serenity’ of living among the gum trees.

And with that homage to The Castle,  I’m going to go out amongst my own gum trees to shovel some alpaca poop. At least it makes good compost.

* Note : ordinary lawn seed is NOT good for alpacas as it can make them bloat which is serious!


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