The weird thing about houses costing more each year, is that people think the houses are worth more. It’s the same house isn’t it? You know, the thing which keeps rain off your head. Maybe it’s just me that thinks that a dollar doesn’t buy what it only recently did.
There was a similar mania leading up to the recession we had to have way back in the early 1990’s. With interest rates as high as they were, the idea back then was to chuck your money in the bank. And somehow through the mysteries of mad cash, the stuff would be worth more. The idea has a certain appeal. Why bother producing something, when you can get more mad cash for doing nothing? Heck, the concept beats working for a living, if you can get it to work for you.
In those heady days of distressed grunge music and high interest rates, manufacturing declined. I worked in a few manufacturing businesses over the years and watched the machines being sold off overseas. People got laid off. Goods began to flow in from overseas instead, where labour was cheap and few hard questions were asked about safety and the environment. It was no good, but maybe the outcome was inevitable. Energy is what drives the economy, not houses. Peak production of oil from the local Bass Strait oil fields appears to have peaked in around 1985, and has been in decline ever since. Recent news on that local oil front has not been reassuring.
Nowadays though, we’re much smarter, or at least we’re told that. It’s still all about houses, but the underlying energy story kind of looks much the same to me. Few people even think about energy, it’s just there when you flick a switch, or head down to the local petrol station to get it. But it’s hard not to notice that the stuff is getting more expensive.
I couldn’t quite say for sure where it is all going, after all, I never imagined the economic goals would be pursued with such single minded focus for over twenty six years. It’s quite the achievement really, but all goals are subject to diminishing returns, and houses appear to be unaffordable for many. That’s a consequence. Another consequence is that wealth inequality is rising. There’s been some growth in the number of billionaires, but it’s hard not to notice that rate of homelessness has been rising faster. And let’s not forget the regular articles on the subject of food assistance.
Liveability is on the decline too. On Friday, Sandra had a chance conversation with a photographer over in the more fashionable end of the mountain range. She’d come up from the big smoke to photograph the autumn leaf change colours. Her general sense was disappointment about the bonkers volume of tourists which made her job impossible. I on the other hand was distressed that despite aiming for a 3.30pm lunch so as to avoid the crowds, it was very touch and go as to whether we’d get a table. There is nowhere else local to go. Maybe we won’t go in future.
Strange days. Energy has been much on my mind of late. Long term readers will know that a lot of work and resources were put into the solar power system here late last year. A few extra batteries and whole bunch of fuse and wiring upgrades. People complain about their electricity bills, but those bills are peanuts compared to the cost of going off-grid in a reliable manner. Anyway, as part of my analysis of the solar power system, I contacted the manufacturer of our inverter. That’s the machine which converts battery electricity into household mains electricity. It’s locally made too, as are some other important components in the system.
The reason I contacted the manufacturer was that I wanted to get an understanding as to how long any potential repair process would take, and if anyone around these parts could do the work. After all, we’d be without household mains electricity during the time whilst the inverter was being repaired. Turns out the inverter would have to be shipped up north of the country, repaired (they promised a quick turn around), then shipped back here. That’s a problem.
Turns out though, that wasn’t the biggest problem. They’re closing down the business. There was no indication given that the business was to be sold and continued, it was just going to be shut down in about two years, and the word retirement was mentioned. A nice vacation for some! Perhaps the economics of the situation suggests such an outcome?
Mild freak out ensued. If you’re going to have a freak out, it should be over an issue that is worth doing so. Maintaining a calm exterior, I put the suggestion to the manufacturer that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put together some spare parts kits for off grid people with the knowledge to repair their machines. Not something they do now, but maybe later was the answer. What can you do in such a situation for later will arrive soon? Worse comes to worst, I can open the casing of the machine, take an inventory of the most likely parts which may need replacing, then obtain them. But it’s a complex job and I may miss something. In the meantime, given that it won’t be long before the manufacturer won’t repair the machine, I’d better get a spare. That’s what decline looks like. And decline’s expensive.
Work on the new low gradient path continued this week. When you live on a slope, all weather access becomes important, especially during the winter months. And low gradient paths work under the worst weather conditions.
We’re using the project to absorb large rocks. Unfortunately, Peak Rocks is a real thing. In order to obtain rocks for this project we have to either split much larger rocks sitting on the soil surface, or dig up and split much larger rocks. Either way, it’s a lot of work to split rocks. And we finally encountered a large rock above the ground which we weren’t able to split. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to that rock at some point in the future.
We gave up on that rock, but fortunately there was another large rock nearby which we could split into seven large pieces.
In the above photo you can see the large rock which defeated our efforts. We even dug two rocks up out of the paddocks. The things were like the iceberg which took out the Titanic. A tiny little bit above ground, and a whole lot of rock underneath. One such rock was split into two pieces, and another was split into four.
We were now Rock Wealthy! The rocks were moved to the path project using the yellow power wheelbarrow. Then the rocks were carefully set into place on either side of the path. And of course, that took some more digging to both widen and lower the path.
We put a few days into that work because of the Easter public holidays. There’s no point heading out when the area is over run by tourists. That’s not what I call fun.
The narrowest point of the path is five feet wide and that is due to the kiwi fruit vines which grow either side of the path. Five feet is wide enough to run all of our machines on such a path without trouble.
The Easter holidays had some pretty awful weather too. Way too wet to be splitting, placing or hauling rocks. But not wet enough to deter me from climbing up a ladder and fixing the FM Yagi antenna I’d home built many years ago. Unfortunately due to the surrounding mountains, the farm is located in a very poor signal area, and that requires a big antenna to compensate. So many years ago I built a big antenna which was constructed so as to be exactly tuned to the FM broadcast signal from the national youth music broadcaster (Triple J). The antenna worked well, but it was not as good as I’d expected.
Over a few quiet nights I read up on the theory of antenna’s and how they worked. At first glance the antenna seemed to be OK. Rain fell. I ended up getting wet, high up on a ladder in the rain. But the effort was worth it, because I discovered that I’d accidentally shorted out what is technically known as the ‘Driven Element’. But in less technical terms is known as ‘stuffing up the construction’. It happens. The design was slightly modified to correct the short, the antenna was placed back up on the roof – in the rain – and the signal now comes in loud and clear. Yay!
We began work on a new concrete staircase which is not far away from the new low gradient path project.
The lids of the steel rock gabion cages for the machine service and inspection pit were all sewn up. The idea is to drive machines onto the gabion surface so that I can see what is going on underneath the machines, and repair them without fear of the things falling and squooshing me. I’m not into that possibility.
The growing season here has been very short thanks to a combination of La Nina, the Indian Ocean Dipole, and the Southern Annular Mode climate drivers which have all conspired to produce a bonkers wet and cold summer. Thanks dudes! Some tomatoes have ripened, but we’ve decided to experiment with an old timer method to get tomatoes ripened. The method involves digging the plant up, cleaning the root system, removing all of the leaves, then hanging the plant upside down. We may have inadvertently become involved in some sort of weird voodoo ritual, but hey, it might just work. We have to do something with all this green fruit.
You can see that the excessive rain has produced huge zucchini, but also cracked the skins. We’ll find out how they store. They might be fine.
The ferns sure love the damp conditions here. The tree fern planted two weeks ago now has a companion slowly unfurling frond.
Onto the err, leaf change. Yes, it’s pretty, but so many tourists detract from that experience. Limits might be handy.
Yes, yes, yes. Grump, grump, grump!
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 9am is 9’C (49’F). So far this year there has been 253.6mm (10.0 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 196.4mm (7.7 inches)