Finished my burning off and did two hours of mowing this morning so…I deserve this:
And yes, it’s another jigsaw puzzle. 🙂
Finished my burning off and did two hours of mowing this morning so…I deserve this:
And yes, it’s another jigsaw puzzle. 🙂
I wasn’t going to write a bushfire post this year  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:
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].
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:
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.
*CFA – Country Fire Authority, the volunteer fire fighting organisation in Victoria.
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.
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. 😦
Residents in Nth Warrandyte were without power for 18 hours today. We were without power for 18 hours today, and you’d better believe that we were not amused. But the problem goes deeper than simple inconvenience. The powerlines that keep failing are these super-dooper new ones:
As you can see from the photo, the new powerlines are much thicker than the old ones. They are also supposed to be much safer than the old ones, and therefore less likely to start bushfires in this highly bushfire-prone area.
Of course, the safest option would be to put all powerlines underground. But that would be expensive, wouldn’t it? So instead we get this half-baked alternative that keeps breaking down.
How do I know the problem is in the new powerlines? I know, because Nth Warrandyte is pretty much the only area in which these new lines have been completed. Nth Warrandyte also happens to be the only area where these long, unexpected, unplanned power outages seem to occur.
Don’t get me wrong – we’ve always had power outages in Nth Warrandyte, for as long as we’ve been here, but never like this. And never accompanied by bangs in the middle of the night. The Offspring saw and heard three explosions last night, just before midnight. Each one briefly lit up the night sky… from the exact area where the problems have been occurring.
The utility company in charge of our powerlines and electricity infrastructure is SPAusnet. This is the same company whose infrastructure may have caused the destruction of homes in Warrandyte in 2014.
The Offspring spoke to the utility today and described the explosions. The response was that ‘it was possums’.
Puleeeeeze. Possums don’t go ‘bang’. And even if it were possums, that would mean that the new, super thick, super ‘safe’ powerlines are even less capable of withstanding the ravages of nature around here. Not exactly reassuring when we’re facing a potentially catastrophic fire season in January/February.
The one bright spot is that the bridge renovations are mostly complete. That gives Nth Warrandyte residents one extra lane across the Yarra River in an emergency. The new Traffic lights are great as well, and both of these measures make living here just that little bit safer. Thanks Daniel Andrews!
Pity SPAusnet can’t get the powerlines right. I wonder how much it’ll cost the company if the new powerlines cause a fire, and they’re hit with a class action suit by all the residents of Nth Warrandyte? I’ll bet that going underground would be seen as ‘cheaper’. Then again, SPAusnet only paid out $648 million dollars in out of court compensation payments after Black Saturday, so perhaps not…
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know about my kitchen sink. Well, after doing the dishes in a bucket last night, then needing the Offspring to lift the bucket out of the sink [coz I put too much water in it], I was not a happy camper. As soon as I woke this morning, I was on the phone to a plumbing company called H2Pro.
‘Is 8 am tomorrow okay?’
Oh god, yes! Babbling my thanks, I did a jig around the kitchen. I really did think I’d be without a working kitchen for Christmas.
I won’t know the cost until tomorrow, but I’ve used H2Pro before and found them to be reasonable in price. More importantly, they come when they say they will and always do a good job. To me, that’s even more important than price because I’ve had so many bad experiences with plumbers in the past.
If that sounds like a plug for the plumber, you’re right, it is. These guys do good work. If you’re in the general Warrandyte area, give them a try:
Oh, and this is my kitchen ‘sink’ at the moment:
I had to race out to Bunnings yesterday to buy it. At least the colour is nice.
The end is in sight!
Just in case you’ve missed the signs, Monday November 19, 2018 is the official start of the fire season here in Victoria.
That means no more burning off. Period. After the 19th, you will only have the weekly green bin collection to get rid of fallen branches, twigs and gum leaves. Given that eucalypts continue to drop branches and leaves right through the fire season, you’ll need the green bin space for new flammable material, not old.
That November 19th deadline also means you have just 3 more days to get rid of the fuel load around your houses. Unfortunately, the only day that will be really perfect for burning off is Sunday. According to the Bureau of Meteorology [BOM], Sunday the 18th of November will be:
Sunny. Light winds and afternoon bayside seabreezes around 10 km/h.
Today will be:
Mostly sunny. Light winds becoming west to southwesterly 15 to 25 km/h later this morning then turning southerly 20 to 30 km/h during the afternoon.
Tomorrow is supposed to be:
Morning cloud then afternoon sunny periods. Winds southerly 20 to 30 km/h becoming light in the late evening.
For both predictions, it’s not the heat that matters, it’s the wind, and the wind doesn’t have to be a northerly. The fire that destroyed two houses in Warrandyte on February 9, 2014 could have wiped out the whole township because a really strong southerly was pushing the flames towards the village.
What constitutes a strong wind? I take no chances. To me, 25 km per hour is enough to make me twitchy. If I can hear the ‘freight train’ sound of gum trees wooshing in the wind, I’m lowering the shutters and checking my pumps.
From all indicators, this fire season is going to be a bad one so please become a little paranoid. And take this last chance to burn off.
With the continued dry weather and fire season fast approaching, I’m a bit worried by the VicEmergency app on my phone. Okay, lie, I’m a lot worried. I get notifications of fires within my watch zone, but the damn phone doesn’t ‘ring’. All I get is a vibration.
When I’m home, the phone sits on my desk so I can generally hear it as it bounces around. If I go to the bathroom or into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, I hear nothing at all. Zero. Zip. Nada.
My phone is a Samsung Galaxy SII with the most up-to-date firmware it can take. I looked up the specs. My phone should be receiving the VicEmergency notifications without any problems. And I do, I just can’t hear them.
I’ve checked the phone and all the settings are fine. I get proper notification sounds for both calls and SMS messages. What’s more, when I was using the now defunct, EmergencyAus phone app. I had a special sound setup just for the notifications. If I heard that sound I knew to go check the phone, immediately.
-sigh- I really have to say this. The EmergencyAus app was ten times better than the VicEmergency app that seems to have pushed it out of the market. VicEmergency should be the better app because it includes data – such as wind direction – that wasn’t available on EmergencyAus. Read this post to see why wind direction is good.
The trouble is, the VicEmergency app is slow to load and slow to update. I’ve seen fires showing on the app long after they’ve been downgraded to ‘safe’ on the VicEmergency website. That makes me wonder how much I can trust the app to provide emergency info. when there really is an emergency situation. And I can’t hear the alerts. In some ways, that’s the worst thing about the app because I’m now constantly worried that I’ve missed a vital notification. And that will only get worse as the season progresses.
So, the reason for this post is to ask other VicEmergency users out there if you get notifications with sound or not. If you do, what phone are you using?
I can’t afford to buy new phones for the Offspring and me, but I can’t afford to continue with this stress either. Not being able to hear the alerts has dumped me right back into the emotional state I was in after Black Saturday. People died because they didn’t know. 😦
Oh, and I did try to get some info. from VicEmergency itself but got no reply. Don’t you just love government agencies?
Any info. gratefully received.
First and foremost, to all those who re-blogged and retweeted my ebook free promotion over the last two days…THANK YOU! There were 40 downloads and I’m grateful for each and every one. 🙂
And now to soothe my frazzled nerves and yours, I thought I’d show you what else I’ve been up to:
Exhibit 1 – one of the alpacas that mows my grass, strips my rose bushes and turns my fruit trees into umbrellas
You may also notice that there’s not much grass on the ground. This time last year, the two alpacas would have been chewing through knee high growth. It’s been dry, very dry.
Exhibit 2 – the apple tree inside the new fence
I got a bit artistic with this shot. 🙂 The metal framing the picture is actually the reo ‘gate’. More on that in the next shot.
This whole project started because I was determined to save the apple tree from the alpacas. Most of my fruit trees are tall enough to survive having all their lower branched pruned into an umbrella shape by the ‘girls’. The apple, however, is kind of a dwarf, and I made the mistake of planting it too close to the fence. As a result, even when the alpacas are locked out, they just reach over the barbed wire and nibble away [that’s why there’s new growth in the middle of the apple tree but not on the ends of the branches].
The first step, therefore, was to put wire mesh above the fence. To do that, I had to hammer some star pickets into the ground and then screw another star picket half way up to increase the combined height [star pickets have holes along one flange so if you marry up the holes you can screw them together]. Then the wire was attached to the ‘posts’.
You can see how the star pickets are attached in Exhibit 3.
Exhibit 3 – the fence
The grid of metal wired to the star pickets is the ‘gate’ leading into the fenced off area. The grid is called ‘reo’ by tradies, but it’s official name is ‘reinforced wire mesh‘. Reo is used to reinforce concrete as it’s being poured. The heavy duty variety is also rigid enough to make an excellent gate. And that’s what I did. Haven’t quite finished so the gate is just wired shut for now.
Exhibit 4 – the enclosure
This last pic just shows the wire enclosure around the apple tree. If you look closely you can see the doubled up star pickets and wire mesh.
Apple tree 1, alpacas 0. -fist pump-
My hands are covered in bandaids and my back hurts, but seeing the apple tree burst into green makes it all worthwhile.
cheers from Warrandyte!
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