Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Burning Off

The CFA recently lifted the summer-long ban on open-air burning. Once again, residents of the hills are permitted to burn yard waste on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Fires have to be kept small, be attended continually, and have a supply of water nearby to dose the fire if needed. The material burned must be completely dry - to keep smoke levels down.

"Burning off" is not something we're particularly wild about. On burn-off days, the air is clogged with smoke - especially since it seems there are at least a few people who are happy to ignore the rules about not burning green or wet material.

And there are a few who ignore the "approved" burning days and burn whenever it's convenient for them. For example - today is Wednesday - NOT an approved burn-off day - but look at the smoke on the ridge opposite ours. That "blue" you see in the above picture isn't fog - it's smoke.

There is a fortnightly "green waste" collection - for those who have signed up for it and pay the extra charges. For a fee, you get a special rubbish bin with a green lid - and the rubbish collectors will empty that bin every other week. The bin holds a fair bit of material, but when you consider the amount of yard waste that accumulates on properties here on Mount Dandenong, well, it's nowhere near enough. The "green bins" are more a symbolic gesture than a serious alternative to burning.

Our first year here, we didn't feel comfortable doing a burn-off. Twelve or so years of drought had the forest tindery, and it was just too scary to go out into the yard and light a fire. Instead of burning, we collected yard waste in the garage. When the pile became big enough, we hired a 3-cubit-meter skip, filled it, and paid to have it hauled away. It was expensive - really expensive. And we could easily fill a skip like that two or three times every year. Eventually we overcame our anxiety and found a safe place on the property for burning - a spot well away from the house and any bushes/trees that might catch fire.

Stephen and I have been piling up yard waste all summer. We've got a couple of considerable piles of twigs, bark, branches, fern fronds, blackberry and holly that's been drying out over the summer. As soon as we have an approved burning-off day with the right weather conditions (dry, very little wind), we'll drag the dried material bit-by-bit over to the burning area and set it alight.

I wish there were a cost-effective alternative, but there isn't. And, because we live in a fire-prone area, letting the branches, bark and whatnot lay in the yard where it falls isn't an option.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

("..does anybody really care...")

I received an email from a good friend in Ohio yesterday, who made some reference to the coming of spring and asked me if our winter had been as mild as Ohio's this year.


It's autumn here, not spring.

Yesterday was the equinox - one of 2 days in the year when the total daylight hours equals the total nighttime hours. And, interestingly, it's a time when the same thing is happening on both the north and south hemispheres. But here, the days are growing shorter. Above the equator, the opposite is happening.

Then there are the solstices. On the day when Australia has the summer solstice, above the equator the same day is the winter solstice. Same day, opposite seasons. I don't think I've ever had much trouble keeping track of that - but I know it causes considerable confusion for my friends up north.

Then there's daylight savings time. Brace yourself...

In America, the powers-that-be declared the change over from daylight savings time a little over a week ago. Here the swap (which will go in the opposite direction) hasn't happened yet. We'll be changing on April 1.

This is always an extra fun time, because the number of hours that Australia is ahead changes, making the calculation of "what time is it there?" more challenging. Throughout my summer, it's been easy. If it's noon here, it's 8pm in Ohio (in January). But now, with Ohio changing their clocks, if it's noon here, it's 9pm in Ohio. On April 1, when we change our clocks, noon in Melbourne = 10pm in Ohio.

Confused? You should hear the conversations between me and my mother (who has never quite gotten the grasp of it all).

Mom: "Can you call me next Wednesday at 8pm?"
Me: "Yup. No problem, Mom."
Mom: "What time will it be there when you call?"
Me: "Twelve."
Mom: "Midnight?"
Me: "No, noon."
Mom: "Oh! Noon on Wednesday."
Me: "No, noon on Thursday."
Mom: "But I want you to call me on Wednesday..."
Me: "I will, Mom."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pictures from the Book: Page 9

Sherbrooke Forest in early morning mist. When I look at this photo I can almost smell the fragrant herbal scent given off by the gums. This shot was taken from the house, looking downhill to the rows of tree ferns below.

(Click on the image to see a larger version)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Book Report: The Washer Woman's Dream

Australia is a country with a rich history full of interesting people and events. For those of you who read my own book and enjoyed it, I'd like to now begin leading you gently a little deeper - and recommend some of the Australian books I've read and found simply wonderful.

So I'm going to start writing some "book reports" (laughing at how I used to HATE doing this as a kid in school, and now I can't WAIT to share...). I'll give you enough information so that you can find it (generally is a good source, although you may have to go to "resellers" to actually get a copy, as with this first book I'm going to tell you about). I'll tell you a little about the book and why I liked it.

We'll begin with this one: The Washerwoman's Dream

This is non-fiction, a beautifully-written biography about Winifred Steger - an extraordinary Australian woman.

It begins with her immigration from the UK with her father (her mother refused to leave the UK), and eventual settlement in New South Wales.

Her childhood was less than ideal, and life got worse when she married her first husband. He and his family made life so impossible for her that she walked away from everything, even leaving her four children behind, in order to survive.

She faced her life with great courage, eventually finding love and experiencing adventures which are lovingly told by author Hilarie Lindsay. If you like adventure stories and enjoy reading about strong women who prevail against the odds, then this is for you!

American readers are cautioned to look around a little for your copy. When first out, this paperback sold for about $40 in Australia, but seems to be available now for about $25. So, do look beyond your normal book sources to see if you can get it for a reasonable price (also, be aware that the book was released a second time - in 2007, I believe - with a different cover). The 2 well-known online booksellers that most US buyers would turn to don't seem to have the best price... shop around!