Tag Archives: Warrandyte

I love you Warrandyte!!!

Almost exactly a month ago, I drove in to Warrandyte to pick up some necessary prescriptions from the chemist. A month ago I was the only person wearing a mask.

Today…every. single. person. I. saw. was. wearing. a. MASK!

Thank you, just…thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

love
Meeks


The hailstorm turns Warrandyte green, not all of it good

The hail storm that ravaged Melbourne, and in particular, Warrandyte, was so furious, it literally stripped the branches on the exposed side of the gum trees and piled the debris all over everything. That debris, which is highly flammable, now carpets my block and that of all my neighbours. Cleaning it up is a nightmare.

These are the in-progress pics of the Great Clean Up and the fresh green grass that’s growing up from underneath. Clearing the area directly around the house and the fire fighting pumps has been my first priority:

The concrete and metal pump house with waist high berm in front
Step 1, rake, rake and rake some more
In the background is the corrugated iron, walk-in bin we made

There’s a bit of green pretty much everywhere, but the lushest green is on the terraces near the house where grey water from the laundry has soaked in, keeping the grass from completely drying out. The melted hail, and the good rain that came after, did the rest.

The largest terrace was created from the clay and rock excavated for the site cut. The site cut is literally a flat spot dug out of the slope of the hill to make space for the house.

The pic below shows the set of field stone steps leading down from the top terrace to the ‘orchard’ area. Much of the debris came from the steps themselves and the banks on either side:

Field stone steps

And finally, a close up of the ‘bin’ we made out of star pickets and left-over corrugated iron sheets.

The walk-in ‘bin’ for the debris

The inside measurement of the ‘bin’ is 1.5 x just under 3 metres, so it’s big. Even so, it’s about 1/3 full already and may not be big enough to contain all the debris from the house area, let alone the rest of the block. We can make it a bit bigger, but I don’t want to bring such a huge heap of flammable material any closer to the trees [in case a bushfire goes through and turns it into a bbq].

Once the bin is full, I’ll close off the front, plant a sprinkler on top and keep everything moist until the fire season is over. Gum leaves don’t compost very well so I may have to burn them off in bits over winter. Joy.

Thanks to my neighbour’s house acting like a shield, the hail didn’t cause as much damage in the front as in the back. If we’re lucky, and nothing bad happens before Easter, I may be able to get rid of most of the debris in front via the weekly green bin. It’s not very big, but as I don’t have a trailer or even a car that could tow a trailer, I have no other way of getting rid of the green waste.

Thanks for your great generosity, Nillumbik Shire Council. <<biting sarcasm>> One of the richest shires in Victoria gave us one extra green bin collection to help us reduce our fuel load. I’m sure it bled their coffers dry.

Anyway, time to take up my trusty rake and get back to work.

cheers

Meeks


Hail storm turns Warrandyte white

Warrandyte was hit by the mother of all hail storms yesterday afternoon [January 19th, 2020], and I have to admit, we were scared. The roof is corrugated iron, and the hail stones, some as big as golf balls, sounded like machine gun bullets trying to smash their way in. And that’s without the thunder and lightning adding their bit. And it just wouldn’t stop.

Mogi [dog] was shivering like a leaf and Golli [cat] was yowling in terror. The Offspring and I just stood in the kitchen, peering out at the devastation and muttering ‘I don’t believe this’.

These are some of the photos I took once the worst of the storm had eased:

Mist rising from the hail
Mist starting to roll up the hill

As odd as it may sound, the humidity after the hail storm was intense, and the temperature was actually warm, so the layer of icy hail stones created a mist that became heavier as it flowed up the hill towards the house. Very strange.

Hail piling up against a window
Hail piling up against the back door

Just realised that some of the hail was bigger than your average golf ball! Those are full sized bricks on the side of the last picture, yet look at the size of some of those hail stones by comparison!

The corner of the deck showing how much hail had piled up

We never get snow, but I found myself having to shovel hail stones off the deck as if they were snow. And this, in the middle of one of our hottest summers…wtf?

A very large terracotta pot, embedded in hail stones

We’ve since learned that Warrandyte was pretty much at the epicentre of yesterday’s storm and suffered quite a bit of damage. In low lying areas, some of the houses suffered broken windows and flooding. And every car left out in the open, is now pockmarked with dents.

Personally, we took very little damage. The Offspring’s car is dented, and one small tile broke on the small side deck, but other than that, we came through the storm surprisingly well. It’ll take me forever to rake up the carpet of shredded leaves and branches covering the ground, but my baby apples survived, and I’d harvested most of the apricots already, so I think we’ve been very lucky.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a pic of the apricot cake I made two days ago. It’s garnished with apricot compote, and all the apricots came from my own tree. Can’t complain. ๐Ÿ™‚

Bon appetit ๐Ÿ™‚

cheers

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


Staying cool in 43 C

It’s officially 43 C in Melbourne, and my air conditioner died yesterday, yet the inside of the house is a relatively comfortable 26 C :

The defunct aircon unit showing the temperature inside the house

My office is a fair bit warmer because it’s a small room, and the desktop computer puts out quite a lot of heat [AMD processor], but it’s still bearable.

Magic? No, fire resistant shutters.

I wrote about my fire resistant shutters back in this post. They’ve never been tested in a bushfire situation, but by god they keep ordinary heat out!

The following pics were all taken from inside the house to show the shutters at work:

In the loungeroom
Inside the front verandah
Through the kitchen windows
Old fashioned evaporative cooling, and more shutters.

Almost every door, verandah and window in my house has been fitted with these fire resistant shutters. They weren’t cheap, but every winter since then, they’ve kept the warmth in, saving me money in heating costs. And in summer they keep the heat out, with or without the air conditioner. ๐Ÿ™‚

Much as I love my shutters, however, I have to say that on their own they would not have been enough. Part of the reason they work as well as they do is that I insisted on having an insulating foam applied behind the door and window frames. The foam fills up all the gaps in construction conveniently hidden by the frames. A small thing, perhaps, but the foam has stopped those elusive draughts from leaching the heat from the house.

Apart from the shutters and the foam, two more things helped keep us from melting today. The first was the weather overnight. The temperature dropped to 14 C which allowed the cross ventilation in the house to cool everything down before the heat climbed again. If it had been hot overnight, we would have been in trouble.

The second thing is that orange towel shown in the last picture. And no, it’s not my washing. :p

That humble towel is wet, and it’s hanging in front of an oscillating fan. As the water in the towel evaporates, it cools the air. The fan then circulates that cooler air around the small family room and into the kitchen.

My jerry-rigged evaporative cooling is probably good enough for some light cooking but…bugger it, we’re having take away! Ahem. I deserve it.

If you’re an Aussie, I hope you stayed cool and safe today. If you’re from the northern climes, I hope you stayed warm and toasty.

-hugs-

Meeks


Nth Warrandyte – fire restrictions are in!

Fire restrictions for summer 2019/20 began last Monday, December 9, 2019. That means no burning off.

If you do burn off and someone reports the fire, two things will happen:

  1. The CFA will arrive to put it out, and
  2. The police will arrive to impose a mandatory $1000 fine.

From now until the end of the fire season, some time in 2020, there will be no more burning off so deadfall, twigs, dry leaves etc will have to be broken up and put in the green bin.

Unfortunately, the gums don’t stop dropping branches just because there are fire restrictions. This is a pic of a huge branch that fell on my property just a few days ago:

Sometimes known as a ‘widow maker’

It’s hard to get an idea of how big the branch is until you get a glimpse of the trunk of the gum tree behind it [outlined in red].

I had the branch cut up and carted away, but all the small stuff remains. What to do with it?

I’ll be filling the green bin with as much as I can, but the rest will have to be piled up in a large open area down the back. I hate having so much flammable material on the block, but if a fire does come through, at least it will burn in splendid isolation…I hope.

Next Friday, December the 20th, will be a bad fire danger day with 41 C forecast, so prepare what you can now, and if you do intend to leave, do it long before anything nasty starts. The roads around Nth Warrandyte get clogged up very quickly. Don’t get caught.

To those living south of the Yarra river, your Fire Restrictions will start tomorrow, Monday the 16th of December, 2019.

cheers

Meeks


Cat-flix?

Finished my burning off and did two hours of mowing this morning so…I deserve this:

And yes, it’s another jigsaw puzzle. ๐Ÿ™‚

cheers

Meeks


A Bushfire A.B.C

I wasn’t going to write a bushfire post this year [2019] because I thought there was no need, not with the devastating fires in NSW and QLD to focus everyone’s thoughts. But I’ve just been on Twitter and seen some of the misconceptions about bushfires.

So…here are some basics:

Fire needs just two things to burn: fuel and oxygen. However the size of that fire depends on many things:

  • Dry fuel – makes a fire burn harder and faster. Fuel is made of up dry grass, leaves, small twigs and fallen branches that build up on the ground over time.
  • Low humidity – i.e. moisture in the air and soil – makes a fire burn harder and faster.
  • Strong winds – provide the oxygen to make a fire burn harder and faster. They also transport embers ahead of the main fire.
  • Embers – land on dry fuel and start spot fires.
  • Spot fires act like pre-ignition for the main fire.

So far, these conditions could apply to any fire, in any country of the world. In Australia though, things are a little different. As well as all of the above, we also have to contend with native vegetation that evolved with fire. Some native plants developed ways to keep the species going after a fire. In fact, the seeds of many of our natives need fire to germinate.

In a nutshell, most Australian natives evolved to burn. This includes gum trees [eucalypts].

  • Gum leaves contain eucalyptus oils.
  • When these oils heat up enough, they turn into a volatile gas.
  • Add a spark and this gas goes ‘boom’. It’s an accelerant – like throwing petrol onto a camp fire.
  • Lightning strikes from ‘dry storms’ provide the spark that starts hundreds of fires every year.

So let’s look at a couple of what-ifs. Let’s say a lightning strike starts a fire. If the humidity is high and the fuel is wet – e.g. winter – the fire doesn’t go very far.

But this is what happens in summer:

  • Lightning [or human stupidity via an angle grinder creating a spark, an over-heated car starting to burn, a camp-fire left unattended, blah blah blah] starts a fire in grassland.
  • The grass fire spreads into scrub land.
  • The scrub land fire spreads into native forest.
  • The scrub at the base of the gum trees burns hotter and hotter.
  • The eucalyptus oil in the gum leaves heats up.
  • The volatile oil in the gum leaves becomes a gas and suddenly the whole tree is on fire.
  • As more and more trees burn, and the wind pushes the embers and superheated air ahead of it, the conditions for a ‘crown fire’ emerge.

A crown fire is when the fire jumps from tree top to tree top. This is a fire that nothing can stop – no amount of water bombers, no amount of fire fighters, no amount of chemical retardants. In fact, water bombers can’t even get near this kind of fire because it creates its own weather, crazy weather that makes flying virtually impossible.

In 2009, south eastern Australia was in the grip of the Millenium drought and an El Nino weather event. For those who don’t know, during an El Nino period, south eastern Australia goes through an extended ‘dry’ spell with much less rain than normal.

In February 2009, an extended heatwave of 40+ degree temperatures, extremely low humidity, high fuel loads and a ferocious north wind [bringing even more heat from the Centre] combined to create Black Saturday, the worst bushfire event in modern Australian history. 173 people died.

Now, ten short years later, NSW is likely to have another perfect storm of fire conditions…tomorrow…at the very beginning of summer…with the worst of the fire season still to come.

I’ll be honest, I’m scared. Conditions here in Victoria are cool and wet, for now, but the worst is yet to come. How will Warrandyte fare once the grass browns off and the damp fuel load turns into dry kindling? And even if we squeak through this fire season, what about next year and the one after that?

Some years ago I attend a Climate Change rally in Melbourne, and one of the speakers [from the CFA*] said something I’ll never forget. He said words to the effect that there are no climate change deniers at the end of a fire hose.

Climate Change is not causing bushfires, it’s making them bigger and more frequent. Exactly as the climate scientists predict.

Climate Change is also extending the length of the fire season. When I was a kid, January and February were the bad months. In years to come, fire season may extend from the beginning of Spring [September] through to the end of Autumn [May].

Three people have died in NSW already. How many more have to die before we stop ‘praying’ and start doing something useful?

I hope with all my heart that the legacy of Black Saturday means that Victorians remember how helpless we all felt, and act accordingly. We’ve been there. We know. The only thing we can control, even a little, is the fuel load. Reducing the fuel load won’t stop a fire from starting, and it won’t stop a fire from spreading, but it may reduce the severity of that fire by stopping it from becoming a crown fire. Harm reduction. The life it saves could be your own.

And Warrandyte? If you haven’t cleared your block yet, what the effing hell are you waiting for? NSW and QLD may be the canaries in the coal mine this year, but make no mistake, we’re in that bloody coal mine too.

To EllaD and the GO in Taylors Arms – stay safe.

Meeks

*CFA – Country Fire Authority, the volunteer fire fighting organisation in Victoria.

 

 


Bathing in a bucket…

And no, this is not research for some scene in a story. This was me, after I discovered that we had no hot water…

not. I wasn’t smiling at all.

As usual, Murphy’s Law was working overtime in Warrandyte this morning. For starters, it’s been damn cold the last couple of days, cold, rainy and overcast. The worst possible weather for my solar hotwater system.

Me: Not a problem. The instant, gas hot water booster will kick in…any second now…hello?

Except that the instant, gas hot water booster did not kick in. Went out to check, and I see a cryptic machine message blinking in red on the display. Panic? No, ring the manufacturer.

“Have you tried to reset the system?”

Me: “Um…no. How?”

I now know how to reset the system but…it didn’t work, did it?

“Let me check the plumbers in your area. I’ll get back to you shortly.”

Me: still waiting…

In the meantime, I had to go out so a clean up of some sort was absolutely necessary.

Me: cold shower? Not on your nelly…that water is effing freezing!

Thank god the kettle still works. Boiled up about 2 litres of water. Poured it into a bucket in the shower. Added a bit of cold…and got to work.

In case there are any time and motion experts out there, I can now say with absolute certainty that it is possible to bathe in a bucket. Not pleasant, but doable. Start at the top and finish with the feet.

And on that note, I’ll quit while I’m a head.

Meeks


Melbourne Airport – 46 C at 2:26 pm

I don’t think it got anywhere near 46 C at Warrandyte, but it was bloody hot nonetheless. Coldstream hit 43.8 C and I think Warrandyte would have been similar.

Feels almost blase saying we only reached 43.8. This is a temperature graph from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology:

I grew up in that middle bit where there are a couple of hot spikes but mostly cool to cold troughs. I remember what summers were like back then. We lived in a solid brick, Federation Edwardian house that stayed cool most of the time. We didn’t even own a fan. Back then, the priority was staying warm in winter.

Now…43.8 C, air-conditioning and multiple fans and the inside temperature of the house stayed at 30 C all day. Bearable, but only because we were lucky and only lost power for about 10 minutes.

Is this ‘proof’ of Climate Change? Or is it just weather? When I look at that graph I can’t help thinking we’re experiencing the predicted, climate change extremes already, and that scares me. If this one day was so bad, how will we cope with even worse days?

And yes, there are still those who believe that all of climate change is just some kind of global conspiracy. I’ve been arguing with a few on Twitter today. But you can’t really have a ‘meeting of minds’ when the other person attempts to use personal put downs to win the argument.

Logic doesn’t work with people like that. Facts don’t either. Yelling and name calling might, but I was brought up to believe that emotive arguments are shameful and weak. That people who use them are shameful and weak.

So I walked away with my integrity intact but a truly bad taste in my mouth. Not because I didn’t ‘win’, but because I couldn’t change things for the better.

When did facts and logic become such blunt tools?

You’d think I’d know better. My Mum was an emotive arguer and it used to drive me crazy. I guess the truth is I never found a way to discuss anything with her, not without it becoming a huge screaming match. Apparently, I still don’t know how to do it. The only difference is that I’m 66 instead of 16, and I don’t yell and scream any more…

Apologies for the rant. I’m hot, tired and angry. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Meeks

 


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