Fake Plastic Trees

Politics these days is a funny business. About one of the best explanations of the workings and processes of election results in representative democracy as it is understood down under is that: Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them. We’re in the midst of a Federal election campaign down here and I have heard some cheeky wags suggest that even five weeks between the announcement of the election date to the actual date of voting and counting was a couple of weeks too long.

I’m barely interested in the machinations of politics, but I did note that the opposition party proposed that half of all new vehicles sold by 2030 are to be electric vehicles. I am not wise in the ways of advanced math, but even I understand that if in the year 2030 only two vehicles are sold, one of which is powered by an internal combustion engine, and the other has an electric motor and a battery, then it could well be suggested that the policy goal was achieved.

The concept of exponential functions as it applies to math was not something that I understood years ago. What can I say other than I unfortunately sat next to the school bully during year 9 math! And that was after having spent the previous two years at a very hippy dippy school. Some circumstances cannot be easily rectified.

It was the editor who casually introduced me to the exponential function. Many years ago the editor suggested me to take a brain smarts test. One of the questions involved yeast. I like yeast (a form of fungi) and use the little beasties all of the time in the kitchen and for brewing. They’re handy critters and I happily feed and maintain them.

The question in the brain test about yeast completely stumped me. I can’t recall exactly, but the question gave a background explanation that the population of yeast critters doubled every day, and by the tenth day the storage container they lived in would be completely full. The question then asked on what day would the storage container be half full? Well, far out I scratched by head and said that such math was beyond me. But the answer is obvious really, because on the second last day the storage container would be half full. Then another day of doubling meant that the storage container would be entirely filled with useful yeast critters. Well, duh!

I encounter the realities of the exponential function occasionally when I head into the big smoke. There is a car park that I occasionally park the little Suzuki Dirt mouse at. It is in a shopping mall which is full of empty shops. It is a creepy place and I park the car and don’t loiter there. The people on the street are a bizarre mixture of mum’s in active-wear, older immigrants that have been in the area for decades, and junkies. It is a very strange mix of people. The thing that bothers me is that the every time I park the car there, the car park is just a little bit more full. It is as if the yeast critters had turned into vehicles and decided to fill up the only all day car park in the entire area.

It is an old suburb too. The suburb had been surveyed and sold off in tiny lots during the gold rush boom era of the 1850’s. Most of Melbourne has been thoughtfully laid out, but for some reason in those days and in particular that suburb, the developers made some serious mad cash by making the house lots tiny, and the roads and lanes even smaller. On the other hand if you don’t have to park a car, the area has considerable amenities (even for the junkies) and charm.

There has been talk in some of those inner Melbourne areas about constructing developments either with minimal car spaces, or without car parks altogether.

Planning Minister criticises council plan to axe car parks

The number of people that are expected to be housed in those existing inner areas is quite staggering. In fact the article suggested that one council is expected to house an additional 43,000 people by 2036! And the article further suggested that at current vehicle ownership rates, that meant that there would be a further 25,000 more vehicles in the area. With that sort of growth, I probably won’t be able to find a car park in Melbourne at all.

Fortunately one of the political parties who has a chance of getting into power at the upcoming election, has a policy that half of all of those cars sold in those future days will be electric powered. That’s a relief. But then I do wonder, because I’ve never seen a really good reason as to why there should be such a push for electric cars.

To generate base load electricity down here for houses and businesses, we burn brown coal, black coal, natural gas, some hydro, and a bit of solar and wind. It is a heady mix, and it sure would be complicated system to operate, but by and large, brown coal does the heavy lifting. And brown coal is polluting stuff, there is no getting around that. So electric cars swap one source of fuel for another, but they still produce pollution. And no matter how you look at the situation, more cars equals more pollution.

At present down under, we are importing something like 90% of all oil and 100% of all heavy oils such as diesel and bitumen. I do wonder if the push for electric vehicles is an acknowledgement that oil is a finite resource and we are extraordinarily vulnerable as an importer. Of course it is not lost on me that even with a policy push towards electric vehicles, because we no longer manufacture vehicles down under, we would have to import all of those too!

I have heard people make the claim that we could power all of this stuff using renewable resources. Fortunately I have a bit of experience with renewable energy not being connected to the electricity grid and having lived with the technology for about a decade now. I can make a few back of the envelope calculations.

Nowadays an electric vehicle will use about 0.2kWh/km (0.6 miles). It is about 60km (say 40 miles) from the door here to the middle of the CBD. Most trips you have to travel in two directions, so that works out to be 120km (say 80 miles). At a rough guess that will require 24kWh for the travel both into and out of the CBD. During the depths of winter at a latitude of Melbourne 37’S (sorry to the people living further south like the nice Tasmanian’s or New Zealander’s, but it’s gonna suck to be you) a solar panel will generate on average about two hours of production per day. That means that you’d need 12kW worth of panels or about 60 x 200W panels. At even half that quantity of electricity, I doubt the grid as it stands has the ability to supply the electricity.

I can honestly say that I have never seen a domestic installation of solar power that large. For sure, there will be one out there somewhere, but most roof spaces that I’ve seen wouldn’t be able to cope with so many panels. And if it is an apartment block, the roof space will be even smaller for the volume of people living in the building.

Nope it ain’t going to happen and it sort of reminds me of watering a plastic plant in the hope that it grows.

Leaf change time is here in earnest, and it has again brought the tourists. I can see why they might want to visit the area to witness the change in the colour of the leaves. In a higher part of the mountain range I spotted these stunning red maples:

A stunning copse of red maples near to the memorial cross

Many of the fruit trees in the orchard have now lost most of their leaves:

Many of the fruit trees in the shady orchard have lost their leaves

This week we’ve had a couple of days where the temperature has reached 30’C / 86’F, but at least over in the shady orchard, the ground cover is beginning to show some signs of turning green again. The warmer, but also very calm weather has given the state government an opportunity to do some back burning over in the northern side of the mountain range. The wind has blown the smoke in my direction, but I believe that it is better to burn now when the fire won’t get out of control, than to hope for the best and see what happens on a hot and windy summer’s day when a fire would most definitely get out of control.

The state government conducted a burn on the north western flank of the mountain range (or is a volcano erupting)

The leaf change tourists would have enjoyed quite the lung full of smokey air (as we did for a couple of days).

Hope you guys know what you are doing! The burn from the northern side of the mountain range

It is still very dry here. We’ve been busy feeding and pruning the fruit trees. In the past few days we’ve brought back 2 cubic metres (2.6 cubic yards) of a compost and woody mulch mix which is used to feed the hundreds of trees. It is a big job which hopefully will be completed next week.

The bright yellow trailer with a load of mulch and compost mix which we use to feed the many fruit trees

Each bright yellow trailer load provides enough feed for about 30 fruit trees. The first step in the job is to position a crate with the mix next to a fruit tree.

Crates are located next to each fruit tree. In this case the tree is a chestnut

All of the lower growth on the fruit tree is pruned. This ensure that the tree has a single strong trunk and it also forces it to grow tall. Observant readers may note that the fruit tree is in a cage of very strong chicken wire, and the wire stops the wallabies (a forest kangaroo) from destroying the fruit tree. They’re right little vandals, and it takes many years for a fruit tree to recover from the damage they inflict.

A well fed and pruned chestnut tree

All of the trees in the shady orchard have now been fed and pruned. Next week we’ll continue the job but in the sunny orchard. Even the willows and sugar maple that sit on the edge of the swale at the bottom of the tomato enclosure were fed and pruned.

The trees in the swale at the bottom of the tomato enclosure were fed and pruned

Observant readers will note that sitting on the sapling fence is a large black bird similar to a raven. It is a Pied Currawong which is a native bird and it has the loveliest call. Being closely related to ravens, the birds are as smart as, and this season they’ve been enjoying their fair share of fresh tomatoes.

A Pied Currawong enjoys a fresh yellow tomato. Pop goes the tomato.

The bird is not going to enjoy tomatoes for much longer as we are also clearing out the tomato plants and planting the winter vegetables in the above enclosure.

The winter vegetables are being planted in the tomato enclosure. Note the black bird on the fence – no fear

It is hard for me to believe it, but a few times this week, I have had to water the winter vegetables because it has been so hot and dry. And you can see the hose in the above photo.

We also did a lot of pruning in the garden beds. Nothing goes to waste, and we drop all of the prunings in a dip in the orchard. The organic matter should begin to break down over the next week or so, and then we’ll hit it with the mower and really chop it up into fine pieces.

Organic matter from pruning is dropped into a depression in the orchard where it will break down and feed the trees

All of the hundreds of agapanthus flower heads were also pruned and placed into the pile of organic matter in the photo above.

Agapanthus flower heads were pruned

In the above photo, you can also see how a couple of apple trees are growing after being pruned. Two of the three trees still require a steel post (called a star picket) and a tie to ensure that the wallabies cannot pull the trees over. The third apple tree on the right hand side has a trunk that is too strong for the wallabies to damage. The wallabies role in the forest is to keep the paths and under story open, and they do that by removing vegetation to a height of about 6 foot. It is probably not necessary for the wallabies to do that in an orchard, but old habits die hard I guess.

Chestnuts and Horse Chestnuts grow really well here, and this week I planted a few locally grown chestnuts in the nursery bed in the hope that they develop into seedling chestnut trees.

I collected a few locally grown chestnuts and have planted them in the nursery bed

The nursery bed now has Japanese maples, Chestnuts, and Lavender.

The nursery bed now has Japanese maple seedlings, Lavender cuttings, and Chestnuts

In other raised garden beds, the winter vegetables appear to be finally germinating.

The winter vegetables are now germinating

The first of the winter crop of citrus (mandarins) look as if they are just about ripe and ready to pick:

The first citrus crop of the winter months – Mandarins

I also noticed that the Asparagus plants have set seed, and hopefully the produce self-seeded (volunteer) asparagus plants, as has happened in previous years.

Asparagus plants have set seed

Onto the flowers:

This little dandelion is prolific. You can see coffee grounds thrown onto it
A native bee enjoys this mint flower
How nice are the nasturtiums?

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 10’C (50’F). So far this year there has been 69.2mm (2.7 inches) which is the slightly higher than last weeks total of 69.0mm (2.7 inches).