Tag Archives: Warrandyte

Last chance to burn off, Warrandyte

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.

cheers

Meeks


#VicEmergency, phone app question

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.

Meeks


Apples, alpacas and some results

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!

Meeks

 


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

 


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