Tag Archives: Nillumbik-shire-Council

Fire season, alpacas – and the things that burn

A few weeks ago I did a series of burns to prepare my block for fire season. I kept these bonfires very small for fear they’d get out of control, even with everything so damp. As a result, I had to struggle to keep my fires going, yet even so I learned some interesting things about what does, and does not, burn in my part of Australia.

As expected, the dry leaves and twiggy branches of gum trees burn very nicely, thank you very much. However I also discovered that even relatively fresh gum leaves will burn. As these leaves contain highly volatile oils, I should not have been surprised by this either.

Still on the subject of leaves and volatile oils, I threw some lemon tree prunings onto the fire and took a big step backwards, expecting the branches to explode into flames. The leaves did burn quite nicely but the branches seemed to burn no better than any other green wood.

Next I tried the dry stalks and flower heads of agapanthus. [Picture courtesy of wiki]

Once these flowerheads and stalks dry off, they burn like paper. The green leaves however took a long time to dry out and eventually burn. For me, the lesson here was that clumps of well maintained agapanthus may help extinguish embers. At a certain temperature, however, anything can and will burn.

While cutting out the dry agapanthus stalks, I also trimmed back some branches of a very hardy, invasive and hard to eradicate shrub whose name I don’t know. I remember finding pictures of it  once, as part of a listing of ‘weeds’ in the Warrandyte area.

I took the two pictures below in the hope that someone would recognize it and name it. [Thanks for the camera tip Metan!]

The reason I want to name and shame this plant is that it snap, crackles and pops on the fire… even when it’s fresh and very green. This thing seems to burn even better than gum leaves, and in a bushfire I can imagine it merrily shooting off burning embers in all directions.

I know Nillumbik Shire Council considers it to be a noxious weed because it is not indigenous to the area, but they have done nothing to force residents to eradicate it. Nor have they, themselves, eradicated it from roadsides and other public places. This stuff should be attacked without mercy because it burns so well, not because of any airy, fairy conservationist principles.

Now that I know how dangerous this unnamed plant truly is, I’ll be blitzing it with a vengeance. If you know what it’s called please let me know asap!

The most welcome thing I learned from my burning off was that I can discourage the alpacas from pooping close to the house by :

a) relocating their poop piles and

b) burning off on the spot where the piles used to be.  I suspect the smell of the ash and charcoal masks the smells that tell the alpacas  ‘Here be  the toilet’.

For those who haven’t been following my adventures with alpacas, these big, woolly lawn-mowers like to leave their poop in neat piles. Unfortunately a couple of their preferred toilet spots are rather close to the house. That is a problem because, although the smell isn’t really all that bad, the green volcanos that grow up around them are both unsightly and difficult to mow by hand. Trust me, you do not want to accidentally mow into a pile of wet poop. 😦

I’ve tried sprinkling lemon oil over these unwanted piles but it didn’t work as a deterrent. The burns will work, so long as you repeat the process until the alpacas ‘forget’ and move on to somewhere else. They can be rather stubborn so even this is not a magic bullet.

As always, I would love to see my fellow residents taking a more proactive part in keeping Warrandyte safe[r] from bushfires.



Open letter to Nillumbik Shire Council

To the Shire Councillors, past and present, who allowed so many men, women and children in our shire to die on Black Saturday I say ‘who do you think you’re kidding?’

I just took a look at the budget allocations you have made and they would be quite funny if 173 people had not died during the Black Saturday bushfires. You did not take the fire risk seriously before Black Saturday and it is obvious that you are still not taking the risk seriously.

Let’s have a look at those budget allocations shall we?

The highest rating shire in the state of Victoria has allocated :

$500,000 to the upgrade of AE Cracknell Reserve [park] in Panton Hill. Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$300,000 for further development at Edendale.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$290,000 for the Hurstbridge Skate park.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$320,000 for new toilets at Elthan Lower Park.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$105,000 to seal some carparks at ovals [sporting grounds] in Hurstbridge and Diamond Creek.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$150,000 for renewal works at Alistair Knox Park playground.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$1.15 million for roadworks. Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$445,000 for improvements to leisure centres and community halls.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$280,000 for road sealing.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

$200,000 for new footpaths.   Contrast this with just $650,000 for fire prevention.

So, out of a total budget allocation of $4,390,000 you have allocated just $650,000 to the saving of lives?

Why is it that everything else has more importance in your eyes? Do you really think the scrub has stopped growing in the years since Black Saturday? Do you really think it is going to stay green forever more?

I live here and I know that most of the shire is groaning under the fuel load you refuse to acknowledge, especially areas like North Warrandyte that did not burn last time.  We are all living in another tragedy that is just waiting to happen.

Did the Royal Commission into those 173 deaths have no impact on you at all? Does the fact that North Warrandyte, one of the most fire prone areas in the shire, has not one  ‘safe place’ mean nothing to you?  This whole shire is getting set up as one gigantic bbq, yet instead of using this grace period to make the shire safer you are building skate parks and prettying up leisure centres. What kind of priorities are these?

This Council does not look after a nice, cosy, safe inner Melbourne suburb where councils can afford to spend their money on ‘nice-to-haves’. Nillumbik shire is on the edge and we will burn again. Stop pretending that the problem has gone away for good. There are over 60,000 people living in Nillumbik and a huge proportion of that population is living in fire-prone areas. How many more of us can you afford to lose to the horrors of bushfire?

If Nillumbik Council’s budget is anything to judge by then clearly most of us are expendable.

Nillumbik Shire Council was not brought to account for the deaths that occurred during Black Saturday but I swear that if I survive the next one I will not rest until I bankrupt this pathetic excuse for a local government. Shame, Nillumbik, shame.

Yours most sincerely.


The Mulcher!

Ok, apologies to anyone who reads my title and gets all excited at the thought of a horror story. I don’t write horror, don’t read it either so… you’re out of luck. My fellow writer Alex Laibourne does though. Look him up 🙂

Now, to the real mulcher. It’s a 2400W thing that looks a bit like an old fashioned meat grinder on the inside. Apparently it works like one too except that this baby is going to be munching up all the branches carpeting my block after the big blow we had recently.

In my own defence I really didn’t race out to buy a new gadget straight away. I did make an effort to pick up those branches but after creating five big piles of KINDLING it suddenly hit me that I’d just spent a lot of effort preparing big bonfires during the worst of the fire season. Clearly I would have to come up with a better plan… but what? I couldn’t bury the stuff – the ground in Warrandyte is just too full of clay and shale, I couldn’t stuff it into the dinky green composting bin provided by Nillumbik shire council – much too small – and I didn’t want to have to hire yet another skip.

And that, my friends, was when inspiration struck [aided by some counting on fingers and toes that proved I could not afford to pay $200 for a skip every time the wind made my eucalypts shed like mangy cats]. So off I went to you-know-where to buy a mulcher.

I am now $319.00 dollars poorer but I figure the new beast will pay for itself before winter… if I can just get it out of the boot.  Two nice men from you-know-where put it in there for me but at 5’3″ [and a bit] I have buckleys chance of getting it out again.  So here I sit, dreaming about my mulcher and wondering which of my neighbours hasn’t had a hernia yet.

Oh well….

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