It’s hard to say what’s the most important lesson learned during the past dozen years of living here. There are just so many contenders for that title. And it is not as if we can chuck the lessons into a cage and let them duke it out in a no-rules battle for supremacy. In these uncertain moments, the sensitive person has to fall back onto their intuition / gut feeling in order to come to a decision.
<insert background swelling orchestral music, or maybe some dirty stinking bass!>
The title for the most important lesson learned during the past dozen years (unconfirmed due to lack of cage fight test) is: People are bonkers about trees.
It’s true, they are bonkers about trees. The house frame was constructed using a combination of softwood and hardwood. The floor is a beautiful red colour from the Sydney blue gum (feature grade – i.e. the cheaper stuff) hardwood. And just to share a dirty little secret, the only heat source for the house is firewood sourced from, oh no, saplings and fallen timber from here. It’s outrageous.
People who think nothing of the environmental and social impacts of flying half way around the world, have upbraided me for daring to use a local resource to keep warm. Of course, they’re the good people, because after all, they heat their poorly insulated homes with electricity and/or gas.
It’s hard to know whether electricity or gas are a better option than firewood.
Electricity is produced in this state largely from abundant brown coal. That stuff has a high moisture content. It’s not all that efficient because it takes energy to dry the brown coal out so that it can burn hot enough. Not good.
The weird thing about electricity though, is given that the bulk of it is sourced from coal, politicians and other good people seem super excited whenever a coal fired generation plant gets retired, and isn’t replaced. They’re the crazy ones. The beliefs that lot heap upon renewable energy technology defies my lived experience. The technology is good, but it’s not good enough to replace coal, like for like. The sun doesn’t shine at night, the wind doesn’t blow all the time, and sometimes you’re in a drought or fog. A dozen years experience living with renewable energy technologies, has convinced me that the good people don’t have the balls to disconnect from the mains electricity grid.
And gas, well even Blind Freddy knows that there are threats of looming supply shortages in this state. Makes for exciting times.
Older readers may recall the very charming English television series: The Good Life. As a kid, the idea of producing cooking gas from a methane digester in the backyard fuelled by manure from the pigs, sounded like a pretty cool technology. However, the vast majority of people don’t get their gas that way. It’s a pretty industrial process extracting that stuff.
Coal and gas began forming about 300 million years ago during the Carboniferous period. Humans are burning through this stuff at a bonkers rate, and once it’s gone, sorry to say, but it’s gone. And our species will be a forgotten part of the fossil record before any of it ever gets replaced, if it ever does.
People sure are bonkers about trees though, the cheeky scamps. Compared to waiting 300 million years, the trees here grow super-fast at about a metre (3.3ft) per year. And there must be many thousands of trees on the property. Proving how bonkers people are about this subject, someone once suggested that it would be preferable to obtain firewood from the river red-gum forests 300km (minimum) to the north of here. It sounds like a good idea, until you discover how slow growing those trees are, and how much diesel fuel is required to truck the heavy loads that far. Yeah, nah, may have been the reply to that thoughtful suggestion.
Speaking of bonkers, it’s hard to not wonder at the unfolding energy drama in Europe. It’s nice to take a high hand when the summer sun gently warms your skin. Right now down here it is winter, and next week, two nights are forecast to be freezing. The holidaying good people tell me that Europe gets pretty cold during winter, apparently heaps colder than here. I wouldn’t know about that. But at a guess, I reckon it might take some heating, and heating requires energy. Yeah.
Regular readers will recall that a month or so ago, we reconditioned the wood heater. The device has been working really well, and it just need a little bit of care and attention – which it got. When we first installed the heater many years ago now, an order was made for spare parts for the components which get used up (nothing lasts for ever).
Those spare parts which we had stored were used in the reconditioning. We knew the job had to be done, and had a back order for more spare parts. That’s been with the manufacturer for eight months now. One part was recently delivered by post, the other (a baffle), might not be available until Christmas. Apparently, the manufacturers supply of steel has been halved. They have the customers ready to purchase, the workers and facilities to produce the devices, they just don’t have the regular supply of steel. Bonkers. And baffling!
It’s been another wet and cold week. That’s winter for you. Late one evening a thunderstorm lit up the sky, and hail pelted the roof (and solar panels). The hail was a bit bigger than usual, and made a heck of a noise on the steel roof.
The air is very humid, but that’s usual for this time of year. It looks like a rainforest out there…
It’s so wet outside that very little work around the property got done.
There’s still plenty of work which needs doing, just inside the house.
At the beginning of the health subject which dares not be named, we purchased a custom made bathroom cabinet. It was on the market because a builder had gone under, and the cabinet maker was just happy to offload it. It’s a beautiful looking thing made of Australian Karri timber oiled in Japan Black stain. Light falls into it!
It was one of those things which seemed like a good idea at the time. Two and a half years later, it still hadn’t been installed. Being stuck inside the house this week was the perfect time to get the job done.
Honestly, it was a painful job. Ordinarily we’d install tiles on the wall behind the cabinet. Seems like a good idea until you realise that if anything goes wrong, the whole wall has to be pulled apart. We decided to make the arrangements easy to dismantle, and so opted for an acrylic splash-back sheet. Took four months to supply that sheet, but that’s another story.
The acrylic sheet is meant to glitter and sparkle, but no, it just looks like a sheet of white plastic unless you hold a torch to it. We sometimes have little bits of unexpected bling here and there.
The wood heater is on the other side of that wall, and the sheer amount of plumbing in the wall is bonkers.
Just in case any of the plumbing ever requires repair, we created a removable panel which covers the hole in the wall. Incidentally, that hole in the wall had been there for well over five years.
Last September we experienced a 5.9 magnitude earthquake while the washing machine was on spin cycle. That was a new experience for me, and at first I thought that the washing machine was about to explode. We rushed outside to safety once we realised what was going on. The timber house frame is very strong and also flexible. Most of the damage was pretty minor being hairline cracks in the plaster joins in the corners of rooms. The hinges to the laundry door however, were damaged beyond repair and the washing machine had to be factory reset.
The door used to only open at 90 degrees to the wall and annoyingly it used to block the path between the laundry and kitchen. I replaced all four hinges with 165 degree opening hinges. Easy, except that the door frame had to be blocked out with sheets of plywood cut to size. All looks pretty neat, and now at least works.
By Sunday afternoon the outside had dried a little bit. We were all anxious to get outside. Dame Plum assisted Sandra and I in cleaning up the garden terraces. We’re getting them ready for the next growing season.
Over the past few months, a lot of weeds had grown in the very rich soil on the terraces. The pile of organic matter will be left for a few weeks, then we’ll mow it up and the worms and other soil critters will feast!
Signs of the impending spring are everywhere.
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 10.00am is 2’C (36’F). So far this year there has been 612.8mm (24.1 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 579.0mm (22.8 inches)