Tag Archives: Warrandyte

Profiting from the ‘war on waste’

I rarely watch commercial TV and almost never during the morning, but today I did, and it made me hopping mad. I don’t know the name of the show as I only tuned in when the panel started arguing about shopping bags, but essentially, one guy was being very vocal about how great the new ‘multi use’, plastic shopping bag initiative was. Another guy was making the point that it was a pointless exercise because the bags were still made of plastic AND Woolworths was now charging for them as well.

I don’t have a picture of the new, you-beaut plastic shopping bags [because I refuse to buy any], however I think most of us know what they look like. They’re thicker and look suspiciously like the bags we used to get shoes and other jazzy apparel in.

Yes, these bags are a bit bigger and yes, they are a bit stronger too, but they’re still plastic. Worse, they’re made of a plastic that is even harder to get rid of than the so-called single-use bags. I do have a picture of those:

They are ugly, and a menace and impossible to recycle…but they can be re-used. I use at least some of mine as rubbish bin liners in the kitchen [in Nillumbik we have to sort waste into 3 bins]. I also use them to pick up dog poop and other nasty things, thereby saving on plastic gloves as well. At the end of the day, however, these plastic shopping bags still end up in landfill, so I’m all in favour of getting rid of them. The big problem is: what do we replace them with?

Greenies bring their own heavy duty shopping bags which look something like this:

These are fine, in theory, but hands up how many of you forget to take them with you when you go shopping?

I have about 10 of these stupid bags – in the house, in the boot, even on the back seat of the car. D’you think I remember to take them? Nope.

“I just need to pop into the supermarket for milk and eggs…”

Yeah right. I’ve yet to leave a supermarket without at last four bags of unplanned necessities. And you guessed it…they’re in grey plastic shopping bags.

It’s not that I don’t want to do the right thing for the environment, I do. But I’d really love to know why this debate has been hijacked by the supermarkets and the plastic bag manufacturers?

Am I the only old[er] person who remembers string bags that scrunch up into next to nothing? And how about those heavy duty paper shopping bags?

I admit paper bags don’t last as long as the plastic ones, old or new, but when paper becomes unusable, it can be recycled, or used to start a fire, or thrown into the compost where it really will decompose. In fact, if we’re talking about paper, how about using up some of our recycled paper to make paper bags? All kinds of paper bags. What’s the point of zeroing in on plastic shopping bags when almost every single items that goes in those bags is also wrapped in yet more plastic?

Can’t be done? Bull$hit. From memory, the green grocer in Eltham [next to Coles] provides customers with the option of using small paper bags instead of clear plastic bags. And IGA in Warrandyte is selling heavy duty shopping bags made from paper. Each bag costs 10c,  and is surprisingly durable. Wet things will put a hole in the bottom of the bag, but for them, you can use these:

The dark blue plastic lump next to the cup-and-saucer is a plastic shopping bag. Yes, I know, but bear with me. I bought 2 of them a couple of days ago from the Eltham 2 Dollar shop. I’d gone in there to ask about old-fashioned string bags [they are trying to order some in for me], and decided to make do with these tiny plastic ones in the interim.

When you open them out, they look like this:

Each one of these bags can take a heck of a lot of shopping, yet will fold up into a package small enough to fit into a pocket. And that’s exactly where I keep mine, in the pockets of my hooded winter jacket. As I wear this jacket whenever I leave the house, it means I now have two re-usable shopping bags with me at all times. No more old lady memory. If I pop into a supermarket for milk and eggs, I’ll always have a bag to put them in.

Oh, and one more thing, when you shop with a trolley, why put fruit and veg into clear plastic bags? Small things like fresh peas or green beans I can understand, but apples, potatoes, lettuce etc can sit quite happily in the trolley without any packaging at all. And once you’ve paid for them, they can all get thrown into a shopping bag. If you’re worried about loose fruit and veg falling out of the shopping bag, just tie the handles.

And people…there is no excuse for buying fruit and veg in polystyrene ‘trays’ with plastic wrap over the top. Seriously.

I’m all for the war on waste, but I fear it’s become a trendy ‘fad’ that will disappear after a few months of inconvenience. The problem is real and has to be tackled realistically. And that means there is no room for purists. Convenience will always be an issue. Poor memory will be one as well. We need to address the worst case scenario and find solutions that everyone can live with. String bags are one. Tiny, foldup plastic bags are another. Durable cloth bags and paper bags should be readily available as well.

The one thing that should not be promoted is heavy duty plastic because it’s worse than the problem it’s trying to solve. And no, supermarkets should not be making a profit out of our desire to make this world a better place for our kids and their kids.

Get real Australia

Meeks

 


Kookaburras – update

Some of you had trouble with the laughing kookaburra video so I’ve found one that should work better. Sorry about that!

One of the many things I love about Warrandyte are the kookaburras. Have a look at the little guy who came to visit the other day. As always, apologies for the poor quality of the pics:

Tell me he wasn’t posing!

And for those, like me, who didn’t know that kookaburras are part of the kingfisher family, here’s some info. from wiki:

Kookaburras are terrestrial tree kingfishers of the genus Dacelo native to Australia and New Guinea, which grow to between 28–42 cm in length. The name is a loanword from Wiradjuri guuguubarra, onomatopoeic of its call. The loud distinctive call of the laughing kookaburra is widely used as a stock sound effect in situations that involve an Australian bush setting.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kookaburra

And finally, that laugh:

I’ve included one last video to show kookaburras in their natural setting, more or less. One, in particular, exhibits some of their instinctive behaviours. It bashes its ‘prey’ against a ‘branch’ to kill it before swallowing. Don’t worry, the bits of meat aren’t alive!

If you’ve ever read the original ‘Dot and the Kangaroo’, you may remember that in one scene, a kookaburra saves Dot by diving down, grabbing the snake that’s threatening her and bashing it against a branch to kill it.  I’m not sure if a real kookaburra would be strong enough to handle a full sized snake like that, but the image has stuck with me since I first read the book. If you haven’t read about Dot, you really are missing something special. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 


The Golden Hour just as a storm breaks

Sometimes I get lucky. I caught these photos on my phone a couple of hours ago, just as the storm that’s been threatening finally broke. The weird light you get with storms combined with the Golden Hour and for a few seconds, no more than that, my garden lit up.

The last one is a close-up of a section from the previous photo. An eerie trick of the light makes the tree trunks look as if they really are on fire. And all the photos are of gum trees – khaki green and brown.

This is not the first time I’ve seen the Golden Hour from my deck, but it is the most spectacular. Makes me realise how inadequate words are when compared to this glory.

cheers

Meeks

 


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

 

 


Foxes and Magpies in Warrandyte

I scribbled this down yesterday, just before racing off to work:

Monday 9:40am. Saw a smallish brindle fox sprint across the back yard, pursued by 4 magpies. They were our resident magpies, and they chased that fox right off the premises…theirs & mine.

Just before jumping over the side fence the fox stopped & seemed to look straight at me, despite being inside the house & 40 metres away.

I think it heard the whistle of my kettle as it came up to boil. Whatever the truth of it, by the time I turned back to the window from the stove, the fox was gone.

I wish I could have taken a photo for you, but it all happened too quickly. Instead, I went looking for photos online and found these:

fox-brindle

The image of the brindle fox is courtesy of http://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/red_fox.html and is exactly the odd mottled, brownish colour of the fox I saw. I love foxes but know nothing about them. Is this colour a seasonal thing? Or is it perhaps a sign of immaturity?

magpie-swooping

The image of a magpie swooping is courtesy of http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/09/how-to-survive-magpie-swooping-season/.

When the Offspring was little, we were both swooped by magpies while out for a walk. I was terrified [for the Offspring], but since moving out to Warrandyte I’ve learned a lot about magpies. I’ve seen them swoop the dog and the cats, but only during breeding season. The rest of the time the maggies ignore them as creatures beneath contempt. And I’ve seen maggies hound a young possum out of a tree [where there was a nest?] so I know these birds are fierce when they want to be.

But I’ve also seen my maggies conscientiously feeding and teaching their young:

baby-magpie

This image is courtesy of https://www.trevorsbirding.com/baby-magpie/

And believe me, maggies are smart. When I throw out stale bread for them, or some scraps of meat, the first one on the scene will warble an alert and in moments, their young will come to feed. Maybe that’s why they treat me like a member of the family. In loco parentis?

I’ve never been swooped out in the garden. Not even once. Somehow, the maggies whose territory I share know I’m a friend, and as the story of the fox shows, they know when to protect ‘our’ domain. Much as I love foxes I don’t want Mogi, my tiny chihuahua-cross dog to be snatched up one day when the hunting has been poor.

So yesterday I went to work with a smile on my face. There are times when I love Warrandyte so much it hurts. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


March Fly [or horse fly] bites – Warrandyte

I don’t normally take selfies but I thought I’d better take some photos of these bites:

march-or-horse-fly-bites-1

march-or-horse-fly-bites-2

I took these pics today but the March Fly [also known as horsefly] got me yesterday. Lucky for me, I’ve finally learned how not to have these bites turn into horrible, pus-filled welts:

  1. Do NOT scratch.
  2. Do take an antihistamine immediately

If you’re like me and get a mild[ish] allergic reaction to insect bites, these two rules are golden because, the more you itch, the more the inflammation or infection or whatever it is, spreads.

So not scratching contains the problems, but it doesn’t stop the itch. Unfortunately, that itch is like ten mosquito bites rolled into one, and it doesn’t just go away after an hour or two. Or at least, it doesn’t for me. Those selfies show the bites almost 24 hour after they happened. I haven’t scratched – thanks to the antihistamine – but the bites are still red and angry. And they still itch.

For me, the most effective antihistamine is Telfast 12 hour. I use it during the day because it doesn’t put me to sleep. At night I have to use an old-school, sleepy-time antihistamine called Polaramine. I also dab a topical cream called Solocite on the bites. Solosite is a hydrating, healing gel, but it also seems to reduce the itch.

And now a word about the March Fly [also known as horsefly]. This is the first time I’ve known what bit me because this is the first time I’ve actually seen what bit me. In the past, I’d get bitten – often through my clothing – without ever knowing what type of beast got me. All I knew was that it usually happened while I was weeding the lush Spring grasses. Thanks to the strange, almost monsoonal bouts of heavy rain we’ve had this Spring/Summer, this is my third bout of the itchies.

As I said though, this time I actually caught the mongrel in the act. I can’t have felt the first few nips [I have 5 bites] but I sure as hell felt the last one. It was quite sharp and when I looked down at my leg, I saw something that looked like a black house fly but quite a bit bigger, like a blowie [Bluebottle]. It also made a kind of low-pitched rumble rather than the normal irritating buzz. Also unlike the blowie, this thing left tiny droplets of blood on my legs.

After applying my version of first aid, I hopped onto Papa Google and discovered that the female March Fly [or horse fly] cuts a hole in your skin and injects saliva into the hole to stop your blood from coagulating too quickly. Then it feeds. You, on the other hand, react to some protein in the saliva and develop a terrible itch.

I suspect I have an unusually severe reaction to this pest, but on the off chance that others do too, I hope this post proves useful.

cheers from a not very happy

Meeks

 


Optus network and EmergencyAus – update

Just thought I’d let everyone know that I can now access EmergencyAus via my browser!

emergencyaus-on-pc

It’s in beta but the most important parts work just fine. You can find it at:

http://emergencyaus.info/map

No download required as it all runs from within the browser.

cheers,

Meeks

 

This morning’s post:

This is a bushfire danger post so if you’re not from Australia, or not interested, look away now.

Okay, my mobile phone carrier is Virgin. Virgin uses the Optusnet network. If the Optusnet network in a given area goes down, the Virgin mobile phones in that area become useless lumps of plastic and circuitry.

My mobile phone became a useless lump of plastic and circuitry this morning. Not just for a minute or two, but for over 2 hours.

What does this have to do with bushfires? EmergencyAus, that’s what.

The EmergencyAus app on my phone sends me notifications of ANY issues within a 5 km radius of my house in Nth Warrandyte. It is my early warning system. It is the one thing that has given me peace of mind since Black Saturday.

If you stayed to defend your house as I did on that horrible day, you’ll know that reliable information was next to impossible to find. I spent all day listening to ABC radio 774 [the emergency broadcaster] and haunting the CFA website. Some horrific reports did come in from people calling in to 774, but the reality was that no one knew what the hell was going on, including me.

It was the not-knowing that terrified me on Black Saturday, and it was the same sense of isolation that made me as nervous as a wet cat this morning. You see, EmergencyAus can’t work if there is no network connection. It relies on my mobile phone to warn me of danger. No phone, no warning. I do have a landline [thank goodness], but EmergencyAus is a mobile app.

According to the Virgin support person I spoke to, an Optus tower was experiencing an unexpected outage, and as it was the only tower I could link to [? how does that work anyway?] I’d just have to wait until it was repaired.

Waiting was not such a huge issue today because although there is a north wind, the temperature is still fairly low after a wintry night. But imagine if this had happened during a heatwave when temperatures reach 40 C plus? That one tower goes down and I’m…f…in trouble.

I suppose I should be grateful to get a wakeup call before we hit a code red day, but I’m not feeling much like Pollyanna today.

Not Happy, Jan 😦

Meeks

 


#Solar power changing the face of poverty in India

Large, corporate power suppliers often cite baseload [the amount of energy needed to satisfy the minimum energy demands of a given society] as the reason for dismissing solar power. Solar panels/arrays don’t work at night so solar must be useless for baseload.

On the surface, the need for baseload power does appear to leave solar out in the cold, but…all baseloads are not the same. In India, there are tens of millions of people for whom baseload equates to just one light bulb. These are the people living in distant rural areas, or city slums, or simply on the pavement. They are poor in a way we in the West cannot even imagine because, despite their poverty, they have to spend a significant portion of their tiny monthly incomes on kerosene for their lamps, or batteries for their torches. All because they are too poor to tap into the electricity grid.

And this is where Piconergy comes in. Founded by a group of young, well-educated, clever young men, Piconergy has created a super small-scale solar power plant called the Helios [from the Greek word for ‘sun’]. This is the product description from their website:

Product Features

–  Strong and sturdy Power Box which can be easily carried around and/or wall mounted, housing our battery management system & a 6V 4.5 Ah Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) technology based sealed maintenance free battery.

–  5 Watts-peak Solar PV Module with 4m cable & connector.

–  Three LED Light Bulbs producing up to 200 lumens each with 3m cable & switch to cover maximum area for illumination.

–  USB port for charging mobile phones.

–  Optional SMPS Adapter to charge battery from grid supply.

And this is the product:

helios-product-piconergy

Piconergy are making the Helios available to families in the slums of Mumbai:

  • so the children can study at night,
  • so cottage industries can make more products to sell,
  • so families do not have to live in the dark

I cannot tell you how much the dedication and commitment of the young men at Piconergy warms my heart. They are not just talking about social inequality, they are doing something practical to help. But my admiration for them goes beyond questions of social conscience – I want a Helios for myself!

Why? Why would a middle class woman in Australia with solar panels on her roof already want such a small-scale solar device? I’ll tell you why. I want my own Helios because the solar panels on my roof are tied in to the grid. When the grid goes down, my solar panels are turned off as well. In a word, they become USELESS.

I cannot tell you how many times we have sweltered during a 40 degree day because the grid was down. No aircon, no fan and no landline telephone. If our mobile phones aren’t charged then we are literally isolated from the outside world. And then there are the nights when we need torches and candles just to get to the bathroom. Again, because the grid is unreliable.

After the fire that destroyed homes south of the river a couple of years ago [in Warrandyte], SP Ausnet is finally putting in heavy duty powerlines and some underground cabling, but for now we continue to lose power, and I continue to keep torches and candles dotted throughout the house.

For us, the potential for sudden, energy poverty is very real, and I intend to do something about it. More on that later.

For now, though, if you care about those less fortunate than yourselves, may I suggest you give Piconergy a boost in social media. After all, ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.’

cheers

Meeks

Piconergy:

http://www.piconergy.com/

https://piconergy.wordpress.com/about/

care@piconergy.com


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

 


#Feijoa bounty! Updated April 16, 2016

Just have a look at my harvest of feijoa!

feijoua bounty

And the trees are still groaning with fruit:

feijoua tree1

feijoua tree2

The two trees shown above are about seven years old, but this year is the first time we’ve had a crop. And it’s all due to mushroom compost! I fed the two trees in early spring, and I’ve watered them over most of the summer and it’s insane how much fruit they’ve given back.

The Offspring and I have been eating them for two weeks now, and I’ve given bagfuls to the neighbours, but I think I’ll have to put some out by the front gate tomorrow with a sign that reads – FREE to a good stomach.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. some of you may know the feijoa as the pineapple guava. 🙂

p.p.s. and this is what they look like on the inside [you scoop them out with a spoon]:

feijoa on the inside 003

 


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