Archive for December, 2007

The Last Christmas?

December 25, 2007

I often wonder how long the mindless consumerism of Christmas can continue as we go into energy decline. 

 Here’s an interesting post on the subject from a guest writer at Graham’s blog at Zone 5.

Business as usual

December 23, 2007

When I first started trying to tell people about peak oil, I was met with either outright denial or the comment, “if it’s so important why isn’t it front page news.”

Here’s a comment from one of the many peak oil discussion sites that explains why:

“It was only in February of this year that I first found out about Peak Oil, and I kept questioning it on the grounds that if it were true, that surely world governments would be ‘doing something’. It’s taken me some time to get my head around why they are not. The only ’something’ that can be done is to halt economic growth and therefore end current power structures by relocalizing just about everything we do. When those in power reach that conclusion they stick their heads back in the sand and hope that someone will find a mystery formula to replace oil, not to save humanity, but to save the ‘business as usual’ that is so detrimental to us all.” 

I don’t agree that they stick their heads back in the sand. They’re thinking and planning very carefully how to save their own skins while making sure that the rest of us are prevented from rocking the boat. Expect more and more repressive laws as systemic collapse unfolds. The desire to continue business-as-usual is also the reason why nothing will be done at government levels to seriously address the climate change issue.

So it’s up to us, folks. Ghandi said we must be the change we wish to see in the world. Get out there and change. Prepare for the coming crises. You won’t regret it.

December in the food garden

December 19, 2007

Picking climbing beans
Picking zucchinis
Tomatoes flowering and forming fruits
Picking alpine strawberries—lots of ‘em.
Picking peas (didn’t even sow them. Spread a bale of pea straw for mulch and up they came)
Potatoes sprouting
Pepinos flowering (some still with fruits on)
Tamarillos flowering and forming fruits
Passionfruit flowering and forming fruits
Picking silver beet
Drying herbs—sage, herb robert, nettle, anise hyssop
Collecting seeds—dill, carraway, wheat, silver beet, lettuce, fenugreek, radish
Apples, pears, apricots, plums, nectarines all forming fruit. Putting nets and bags over same to keep the PP’s (pesky parrots) off
Capsicums in bud
Thinning carrots
Harvested the last batch of garlic
Corn is growing (but not “as high as an elephant’s eye” yet)
Shallots forming bulbs
Dianellas forming fruits (this is actually a local plant; a member of the lily family with bright blue edible berries)


December 12, 2007

From The Sunday Times (UK), December 9, 2007:

Britain is to launch a huge expansion of offshore wind-power with plans for thousands of turbines in the North Sea, Irish Sea and around the coast of Scotland. John Hutton, the energy secretary, will this week announce plans to build enough turbines to generate nearly half Britain’s current electricity consumption. He will open the whole of Britain’s continental shelf to development, apart from areas vital for shipping and fishing.

Um……presumably these things are fixed to the sea floor…….what happens as sea levels rise?

More on water — a sign of things to come?

December 6, 2007

The Melbourne Age records the problems of the tiny town (pop. 145) of Orme in Tennessee. Orme has always relied on water from a mountain spring. Now that has dried up. Orme’s antiquated fire engine hauls in water to fill the town’s tank from a fire hydrant 5 km away. Each day, the town’s water supply is turned on at 6pm and turned off 3 hours later. For the first time in 100 years, much of the south-west of the US has reached the most severe category of drought. The US Govt Accountability Office has warned that at least 36 states would face catastrophic water shortages within five years due to a combination of drought, rising temperatures, urban sprawl and population growth. Who was it who said we live in interesting times?

I wonder how long it will be before water supplies in Melbourne are turned off for a period each day. With population growing and Melbourne’s water storages at present only 40% full, I can’t see the dams ever filling again. I think we will always have some form of water restrictions from now on, until the day when the water finally gets turned off forever. (Note to self: put in another tank).


December 4, 2007

These wrinkly-pinkly things, looking like colourful, overgrown witchetty grubs, are oca tubers.




Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) is a South American edible tuberous plant grown in the same way as potatoes. You plant the tubers in spring and as the weather warms, the foliage appears above ground. The stems are pink and fleshy and rather brittle. They tend to break easily. The leaves are grey-green and trifoliate (for the non-botanists that’s having 3 leaflets).




You hill up the soil around the stems and give them plenty of water if the weather’s hot. They don’t mind a bit of shade in the heat of the day. In hot sun the leaflets will fold right back.

As the weather cools in late autumn the foliage will start to die back and you can start fossicking around in the soil for the crop of tubers. They’re crisp and crunchy, with a slight lemony tang. Leaving them on the soil surface in the sun for a couple of days will sweeten them up. They can be boiled, baked or fried. No need to peel, just scrub the skin free of dirt. In Mexico, oca is commonly sprinkled with salt, lemon and hot pepper and eaten raw. So far I’ve only eaten them raw. Leaving enough tubers uneaten (select the biggest) to replant the following spring is the hardest part. Store them in moist sand, sawdust or replant straight away. Out of sight, out of mind (and mouth).

Later edit:

Linda Cockburn, who with partner Trev and son Caleb, are now living the Good Life in Tassie, has written more about oca in her blog.

Watering ideas

December 1, 2007

We’re suffering Stage 3a watering restrictions in Melbourne at the moment. That means watering the garden by hand is allowed for 2 hours (between 6am & 8am) on 2 mornings per week. There are other conditions which you will find at the link, if you’re interested.

Last summer’s Big Dry was a disaster for our fruit trees. Watering out of the 9000 litre tank, by gravity, with one hose, was too slow to allow the fruit trees and the vegetable garden to be adequately watered and the veggies got preferential treatment. This year, I’ve made sure the fruit trees get their share.

I’ve bought a number (25 at last count) of 60 litre plastic bins and installed one on the upslope side of each fruit tree. I’ve drilled 3 small holes around one side about 15 cm apart and 3 cm up from the base of the bin and stopped these up with bamboo kebab skewers. Fill the bin with water, remove the skewers and three small streams of water give the tree a decent drink.



The lime with its watering bin. There’s a zucchini in between. The wire guard is to keep the rabbits off the lime. They don’t like zucchinis.

I’ve also installed a couple of extra bins in one of the new vegetable gardens, in this case with 8 holes drilled around the base, and planted cherry tomatoes all around the bin.

The bins have a domed lid. I’ve turned it upside down and drilled a hole in the centre. Any rain that falls or dew that condenses is channeled into the bin. Overall water storage has thus increased by a couple of thousand litres.

Even though we have 3 tanks — 18,000 litres in total — I’ve decided to save the tank water for an emergency (like Stage 4 restrictions — no garden watering at all — or the water being cut off completely), and water from the mains on one of our allocated days. The other allocated day I’ll use for re-filling the storage bins. I can easily accomplish both these things in the 2 hours allowed. The only thing I’m not going to do is stick to the allocated time of day. Not that I mind getting into the garden at 6am, but I have other things to do at that time. If I’m allowed to water for 2 hours, I fail to see why I shouldn’t do it at a time that’s convenient to me. I’m also watering useful (food) plants, not useless lawns or ornamentals. There have even been some demands from household food plant growers to be exempted from restrictions, but probably that would be well nigh impossible to implement.