Big Weather

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Did you watch the latest offering from Craig Reucassel on the ABC last night? It is ‘Big Weather (and how to survive it) and if you missed it you can watch on iview. Last night was the first episode of a 3-part series.

Watching this was a reminder to check our preparedness for a range of scenarios. Last summer was a wake-up call for me because although I have always considered myself to be reasonably prepared for most situations, bushfires had never really been a consideration. This was due to our location, however, the summer of 2019-2020 changed my perception of that as the affected areas were unprecendented in both location and scale.

For the first time in our lives, GMan and made and articulated a clear bushfire evacuation plan last year. You can read about it here. While bushfire is certainly not the only severe weather risk, it is probably the one most likely to put you in the position of potentially having to make a split second decision to leave.

Emergency planning for severe weather or other events should really fall into 2 categories.

  • Evacuation – this is primarily due to destruction, or potential destruction of property. Examples include bushfire, storm damage or unwanted/unexpected incursion.
  • Self-reliance – total or partial isolation. Possible reasons include pandemic, other illness or weather events which isolate your property from some or all services (flood, fire or storm damage).

There are 3 possible responses when presented with the need for emergency planning.

  • Ignore – simply believing that ‘it will never happen to me’. After the past 12 months, this is a foolish and totally inappropriate response.
  • Inertia – being overwhelmed by the enormity of possible scenarios.
  • Logical action – regardless of how prepared you are or not, starting to take incremental steps to improve your overall preparedness.

Everyone will have different needs and priorities but there are plenty of checklists and hints online. Reading and considering these could be an excellent first step in developing your personalised plan. The Australian Red Cross one looks like a good place to start.

An emergency evacuation plan and kit does not need to be complicated or impact significantly on your day-to-day living arrangements. In fact, the more simple it is, the easier and more likely it is that you are going to be able to implement it effectively if required.

This is ours.

One plastic crate and two sturdy plastic bags. Our household is two able-bodied adults so we could literally grab this and make one trip to the car then leave.

One bag holds the feather doona and the other has a woolen blanket with space to quickly add a spare set of clothes for each of us – long pants, long-sleeved top, socks and closed shoes. The plastic crate includes a box of important documents as well as the list of items to add before leaving and a notebook and pen. The list is the afore-mentioned clothes, medications, toiletries, wallets, car keys, laptop, phones and chargers. A second list is a reminder of extra things we have identified that we would pack if we had some extra warning time (more than 10 minutes).

Do you have a plan? When did you last review it? Is it still fit for purpose?

I am interested to hear your thoughts.

Mending to Save the Planet

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The current television series, ‘Fight for Planet A’, has opened some vigorous debate in some forums.  Some people believe that promoting the use of renewable sources of energy is reckless as this is simply perpetuating the problem that is the ‘growth economy’. Unless we actually participate in degrowth the planet is doomed.

I am not totally of this mind, however, I do believe that much of our future depends on a serious change of mindset and questioning what stuff we actually need.

A really good place to start is to think twice about replacing broken or damaged items. I want to give you an example which confronted me this morning.

We have a laundry hamper in our bedroom and one of the handles snapped when I picked it up to take it to the laundry this morning.

I decided to mend the handle and found some strong navy fabric in my collection. It happened to match nicely, however, I would have used any colour or pattern if required.

I applied a small strip of double-sided interfacing to the wrong side.

The job was a bit tricky with the handle still attached to the hamper. I basted the 2 ends of the handle together and then pressed the interfacing to the handles.

The remainder of the fabric was folded over and around the existing handle. Here it is pinned and ready to stitch.

I stitched all around the patched handle and reinforced the ends and this is the result.

My repair effort is far from perfect but it is functional. I even managed to put a twist in the handle, despite my best efforts not to. However, this does not detract from the usefulness of the handle.

There is no right or wrong way to approach a repair so this is simply an example of what can be done.

The repaired hamper will hopefully last for many more years.

This is degrowth in action. Do not buy things that you do not need. Think laterally and repair or reuse what you already have. If you are not able to do you own repairs, check out your local repair cafe or ask a friend, neighbour or relative. We all have skills and we need to support each other in whatever ways we can.

Fight For Planet A

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I apologise in advance to my international readers but tonight’s post is about a new television program which was launched in Australia on Tuesday evening.  While it focuses on Australia, the necessity for every one of us to reduce our carbon footprint is real, regardless of where we live.

The 3-part series, ‘Fight for Planet A’ tackles the issue of carbon emissions.

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The same team produced ‘War on Waste’, the first series of which aired a little over 3 years ago and spawned numerous ‘War on Waste’ Facebook groups.  Many of these groups continue to be active and attract people who are keen to reduce their waste.  This ranges from single-use plastics such as straws and bottled water to food waste and non-recyclable packaging.

However, you can’t see carbon emissions piling up on the beach, littering the side of the road or evident in huge landfills or stockpiles of recyclables collected but not recycled.

So, how will viewers respond to this new program?

This precise question is eloquently put in the following quote from a report in the Australian edition of ‘The Guardian’ on Tuesday.

“Over three episodes, the team that made the ABC’s highly successful War on Waste delve into the more abstract but urgent issue of carbon emissions, and with it a vital question: how do you convince Australians that something they cannot see represents their greatest existential threat?”

The full article is available here.

There is no single answer to reducing carbon emissions.  It must be a joint effort of government, business and individual actions.  There is no point in everyone trying to pin the blame on another group, person or sector.  It is time for each of us to stop and consider how even the smallest actions can collectively make a difference.

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If you want to watch (or rewatch) the first episode it is available on iView here.

An effort to reduce our personal carbon footprint underpins many of the everyday decisions I make.

Please share your own experiences and challenges in the comments.

 

 

Some More Structures

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Following on from the completed compost bays, I thought I would share some of our other handiwork in the garden.  Unlike the compost bays, we needed to purchase the materials for our latest endeavours.

Growing food crops invariably invites other critters who also deem it to be food.  While I am reasonably happy to share, I am not keen on seeing the entire crop destroyed.

This year has seen the inclusion of an additional pest in our garden – the citrus fruit piercing moth.  From what I have read it would appear that this is as a direct result of the extended period of drought last year followed by good rain.

We have an orchard of numerous citrus trees which generally produce a bumper crop each year but 2020 is not shaping up so well.  We have lost the entire crop of Washington navel oranges as well as the majority of the grapefruit.  These are the earliest maturing of the citrus and we are less able to assess the losses on the two Valencia orange trees as well as the two mandarins.  Fortunately, the lemon and lime trees do not appear to have been attacked much at all.

In normal seasons the only real pest to the citrus trees seems to be the scrub turkeys helping themselves.  They particularly like the mandarins.

I had previously read about using poly pipe and star pickets to create a frame for netting to cover fruit trees, however, we had never implemented this method.  A few years ago we had simply tried draping the netting directly over the tree but while it was relatively effective the netting ended up with rips in it.

The arrival of the citrus fruit piercing moth spurred me into action and we bought the supplies to create the poly pipe frame for the mandarin tree.  We chose to do this one first as it seemed to have very little damage so far which is probably due to the fruit still being quite green.  Everything I have read plus my own observation indicates that the moth attacks ripening fruit.

We used an unused net which we had over the new poly pipe frame.

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The net barely reaches the ground and I am not sure how diligent the moths are when it comes to finding their way in.  I plan to extend the length a little by adding an extra piece of netting to the bottom edge.  This will be salvaged from the previously damaged net.

The next job is to monitor the tree by torchlight at night to check for any moths which are already inside the netting.

If the netting of the mandarin tree proves to be successful in eliminating the moth as well as the scrub turkeys we will consider doing at least some of the other citrus trees.

While we were buying the supplies we made sure we also bought enough to create poly pipe tunnels over at least a couple of the garden beds.  The critter I had in my sights this time was the white cabbage moth.  Unlike the citrus fruit piercing moth, there are many and varied home-remedies to deter these pests.  However, the best prevention is to eliminate them from the brassica garden entirely.

I am determined to grow a successful crop of cauliflower this year so I  used more of the poly pipe to create hoops over the bed.

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Using some of the damaged fruit tree netting I set about making a cover.

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I included shaped ends so that it fits neatly over the hoops.

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There are a few holes which need to be patched but I am confident that this will make a difference.

I regard the money spent on supplies to create these exclusion zones as a worthwhile investment as there are a few hundred dollars worth of produce at stake – and that is just in one season.

 

Climate Act Now

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This post is predominately for my Australian readers, however,there is an opportunity for international guests to sign the petition if they wish.

A bit of background:

At the Federal election in May 2019 Zali Steggall was elected as an independent member of Parliament representing the electorate of Warringah on the north shore of Sydney.  This seat was previously held by the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

A major prong of Zali’s campaign was a commitment to introduce a Climate Change bill to the parliament if she was elected.  This has been considered and drafted and will be presented at the end of this month.

Why does this matter to me?

It is important to sign the allied petition to indicate your support.  Additionally, you are encouraged to contact your local Federal member to voice your concern and requesting that they support the bill in a conscience vote.

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Thank you for reading and taking action as you choose.

Officially Autumn

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Yesterday was 1st March and the official beginning of autumn in Australia.  Coincidentally, I saw this link from the Bureau of Meteorology.  This is what 1C of warming looks like.  Are you prepared for 3-4C increase in temperatures?  That is what we look like reaching this century if the government continues its current level of inaction.  Not a great future for our children and grandchildren.

Meanwhile, I do not actually need the Bureau of Meteorology to tell me about the longer summers.  It is clearly evident in my own backyard.

This photo taken today is of our liquidamber tree.  It always loses all of its leaves each year but this has become progressively later each year.  There is not even the slightest colouration of the leaves yet.

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On the other hand, I am trying to make the most of the longer summer.  I planted a second crop of corn at the beginning of February.  It takes 3 months to mature and I want to see if we can extend our summer growing season until the end of April.

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I am also growing zucchini late in the season.

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There definitely needs to be a change in mindset with regard to sowing and growing times if we are to make the most of the climate changes.

It is definitely much too warm to consider cool weather crops yet.  The forecast maximum temperatures for our area (400m elevation) are 27 – 29C for the next week and this pattern is likely to continue until the end of the month.

While hothouses allow tropical plants to be grown in cooler climates, I am wondering whether there will come a time when cooler weather crops such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage become impossible to grow in our location.  It seems that celery is no longer possible to grow here as the seeds need cool soil to germinate.

Food security is just one very real and present threat from climate change.

 

Decision Time

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This is my first post for 2020 but it does not seem right to be wishing you a ‘Happy New Year’.  The bushfire disaster in south-eastern Australia is worse than ever, with more confirmed deaths and property losses.

If anyone asked me where I have been in the 5 days since my last blog post, the best answer would be “in limbo”.  We made our way to stay with extended family in Canberra.  After record-breaking heat (44C) yesterday, the capital is now covered with a blanket of thick smoke.  Several locations, including Old Parliament House, the National Gallery and Questacon are closed and people are being advised to stay indoors.  Unfortunately, the smoke seeps into everything but our problems are minimal compared to the areas which are directly impacted.

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As you can see from the map below, Canberra is semi-surrounded by fires.  The yellow markers are active fires, red is emergency and the blue ones are contained.  In some cases a single marker indicates a fire which has burnt an area in excess of 150,000 hectares (about 370,000 acres).

Fire Map

Some of our extended family are in areas closer to the fires so we are constantly trying to keep track of the progress of the fires.

We plan to leave Canberra tomorrow morning and drive home over a couple of days.  The western part of New South Wales is not in the high danger area and where we live is south-east Queensland is well away from the current fires.

However, we are still at the beginning of summer and these fires may be just the beginning of a catastrophic fire season as most of the entire country is drought-affected and tinder dry.

Please stay safe wherever you are.

 

That Was 2019

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I am writing this on the final evening of 2019 in a motel room in Rutherglen, a small town on the Victorian side of the Murray River which forms the border between Victoria and New South Wales.

Rutherglen is not where I expected to be tonight.  We were supposed to be in Bermagui on the south coast of New South Wales, however, it is right in the midst of the horrific bushfires raging in the south-eastern corner of Australia.

This photo is from Mallacoota on the coast near the Victoria/NSW border at about 10am this morning.

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I have gone back and re-read the 34 blog posts I wrote in 2019.  That is only about 1 post every 10 days on average.  At the end of 2018 I mentioned that I was going to have all of my photos sorted in 2019.  That did not happen.  The content of my 2019 posts is interesting.  They generally focus on my interests – gardening, cooking, sewing, op shopping and trying to be self-reliant and minimise our carbon footprint.  However, the posts from the latter part of the year tend to reflect the increasing concern over the climate crisis and my personal connection to it.  These included having a bushfire evacuation plan as well as growing food in extreme heat and saving our precious rainwater.

One event which I did not post about was the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) which has held in Madrid earlier this month.  Angus Taylor, the Federal Energy Minister, represented Australia, however, his prime effort was to block any real progress on global climate action.  As a result, Australia was singled out as being one of a handful of countries who set out to thwart the process.

I am reticent to use the word ‘unprecendented’ but that is the best description of the massive bushfire emergency which has been menacing almost every state and territory of Australia over the past 2 months.

Climate change did not cause the bushfires.

Climate change is contributing to the conditions which have allowed bushfires of the scale we are now witnessing to occur.

If the last day of 2019 is any indication then 2020 is not going to be a happy new year for many Australians.  My fervent wish is that my fellow citizens are all safe.

Many of us have worked diligently for years to make lifestyle changes to reduce our personal carbon footprint but our governments will not take action.  The Murdoch media and fossil fuel industries constantly facilitate climate denialism.  This cannot continue.  My New Year’s resolution is that I will take whatever action I can.

I make no apology for this post nor the fact that there will be more blog posts which focus directly on the climate crisis in 2020.  These will be balanced with important positive actions.  We must all do this together.

And one final comment.  Please read this article from the Sydney Morning Herald.

 

Gardening in Extreme Heat

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My apologies to those of you who live in the northern hemisphere.  Here in Australia summer has just begun (officially) after having sweltered through the driest and second-hottest spring on record.  Daily temperatures in excess of 30C, and sometimes 35C, have been the new normal here for several weeks.  Hot, dry and windy days have increased the fire risk to ‘severe’ on many days.  We live at about 400m above sea level and within 30km of the coast so our conditions are nothing like those facing the drought-stricken farmers further west.

Growing food in our current weather is a challenge but one I am prepared to try.  Summer means salads and salads mean lettuce.  So, I am growing lettuce.  I have some in one of the main garden beds which was grown from seed as well as some in styrofoam boxes that were purchased seedlings.

I water the plants thoroughly twice a day – early in the morning and again late in the afternoon.  I cover them during the day and so far this seems to be an effective strategy.

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We picked the first leaves today and are looking forward to plenty more salads based on lettuce grown without chemicals within 10 metres of our back door and completely devoid of packaging.

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Making a Difference

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Australia has just recorded the driest spring on record – EVER!  Additionally, it was the second-hottest spring on record and fell just 0.04C short of the record.

We live in what is generally regarded as a high-rainfall, temperate sub-tropical area, however, that description seems but a distant memory.  As the hot, dry weather continues we are constantly looking for ways to save our precious water.

Our water supply is entirely rainwater which we collect in the 2 large tanks with a combined capacity of close to 100,000 litres.  In the 14 years we have lived here we have barely scratched the surface of that capacity, however, the current drought has made us consider what measures we can take to preserve every precious drop. If we were to run out, our only option is to buy water.  Even purchased water has to come from somewhere and there does not seem to be an endless supply.

In an effort to be as self-reliant as possible we are trying to grow more of our own food which necessitates watering crops in the dry weather whereas during a ‘normal’ season they manage quite well on the natural rainfall except as very small seedlings.

We retrieved a square plastic washing-up dish from our camping equipment and it now lives in the kitchen sink to catch any excess water from washing hands, rinsing dishes etc and that is then tipped onto various ornamental shrubs to help keep them alive.

The other thing we did was to buy 10 metres of hose to attach to the washing machine outlet.  Before I do a load of washing I unroll the hose out of the laundry and across the verandah so that it empties the washing water onto the hibiscus bushes at the front of the house.  The only problem is what to do with 10 metres of hose when it is not in use.

Today, we located a bracket that we had and GMan kindly attached it to the wall above the sink and now the hose coils neatly in place when not in use.

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What changes have you made to save water or other resources?