Archive for the ‘Climate change’ Category

The modern version of “Let them eat cake”

November 19, 2016

“In this spontaneous conversation between two of Britain’s most vocal scientists on climate change and engineering, we see a frank analysis of the details that belie inconvenient truths for each one us.

Our current carbon pollution rate is taking us towards a planet that is on average 4°C warmer than today with regional variations far exceeding this and changes to the natural world that will be so profound that it is fair to say, this will not be the same planet.”

~~~~~~~~~~Mike Stasse (Damn the Matrix)


Well worth watching when you have half an hour to spare:


Anderson: “I take the view that we can actually make a big difference by making social changes now. We can still just make the 2ºC but it needs rapid and deep reductions by this relatively small set of big emitters.”


That small set of emitters is us. We in the industrialised, developed world with our computers, cars and electrical toys. I’m not hopeful that enough of us will make the necessary changes.



January update

February 3, 2016

It rained at last—48 mm in all—over the last four days of the month. Melbourne’s average for January is 47 mm, so a good result all round. Within a day all the tip growth on the native plants was showing fresh and green and the tomatoes, which I thought had been getting plenty of water, started to split their skins.

I’m getting plenty of tomatoes now, after a bad start when rats ate all the first lot of seedlings I put out (in one night!) and set me back a couple of weeks while I put down poison every night and watched and waited until it was no longer being taken. I found six dead rats and the chooks earned their keep by catching and killing another. I mixed the bait pellets with peanut butter, placed it on jar lids and hid these behind the line of wicking boxes and tubs which run alongside the base of the deck (which is where I’d planted the tomatoes). I put it out at dusk and removed any uneaten first thing in the morning. My only concern was birds eating it, but they couldn’t have entered the small space where it was hidden. I’d seen the rats running along there, so it was the best spot to put it. A good result and the next lot of seedlings I put out remained untouched.

Tomato harvest so far :


The cherries will be dried, the paste varieties frozen for winter casseroles and the rest eaten fresh and fried. Loving fried toms with my evening meal at the moment!

Recently I was gifted another second-hand bath from a relative who knows I collect them :


This makes three now. I use the first two to collect rainwater and grow azolla for the chooks. I need more growing space above ground, so I think I’ll use this one to grow veggies.

He also brought 3 bags of dried cow poo pats (they run beef cattle in Gippsland), so I’ll use those as a basis for the growing mix. That’s the black stuff in the bath.

I watered the cow pats to get them to absorb water and soften. I’ve covered them with all the organic material I can muster—mulched bracken, weeds, soft prunings, leaves, etc, and I’ve added some worms from the worm farm to let them break it all up. With any luck, I’ll have a whole new veggie bed to put my winter kale and broccoli in.

I would have liked to have made it into a wicking bed, but I wanted to get the material composting as quickly as possible and I didn’t want to spend time on the fiddly job of measuring and drilling drainage holes and getting it set up. Instead I’ve positioned it so the plughole end is higher than the other end, meaning that water won’t completely drain away, so a shallow, boggy layer will be maintained in the bottom. I can always stop up the plughole later and drill drainage holes to increase the depth of the boggy layer.

I’ve been growing New Zealand spinach for some years. It self-seeds readily and took over much of the bare ground around and under the fruit trees. I left it there because it was such a good ground cover, is green and lush through the winter and the rabbits don’t touch it. I pick the young leaf tips and steam them as a green :


But it’s shallow-rooted in the compacted soil there and doesn’t like to get dry, so with 3 months of below-average rainfall it died right back and became a tangle of dead stems. I decided to remove them as they were a tripping hazard and I knew it would regenerate from the thousands of seeds it had dropped, but when I got it all out I decided I liked the look of it better, walking wasn’t a hazard (especially not knowing if a snake was hidden under it!), so I’ve decided to keep it that way and not let it regenerate. I’ve raked all the litter up around the fruit trees as mulch, out to the drip line, which looks much nicer and makes it easier to add compost and wood ash and gives a cleared space for walking around them. I’ll just maintain a minimal layer of gum leaf mulch there to walk on and absorb the force of heavy rain. I’m still trying to find a ground cover to put under the fruit trees that the rabbits will leave alone. I don’t want to use Warrigal Greens again, because it grows so quickly and rampantly and will just take over again. I’d like to put comfrey there, but the rabbits demolished that too. Everything I like, they like.

I’ve had one zucchini from six plants and that was one I hand pollinated. When there were male flowers open, there were no females. Then when the females came along, the males didn’t show. They’re getting regular water and fertiliser, including extra potash and they’re varieties that have done well in the past. I’m really wondering if it’s worth growing them in future. It’s annoying, when others seem to have zucchini coming out of their ears.

I had a pepino growing in a wicking box on the deck for a couple of years. I pruned it back very hard, not really caring if it didn’t re-sprout and it didn’t. So I put another in a wicking box beside the chook run. It’s doing really well and there are some huge fruits forming (arrowed) :



When the pepino was still small, I planted a tomato at the edge of the box. It’s been overshadowed a bit (well squashed out of existence really), but not to be outdone, it’s produced a couple of huge fruits. From memory, it’s a Black Krim :


Always curious as to what that black thing is she’s pointing at us. Is it something to eat? :


The Girls have been laying continuously since March last year. I lost the second of the original three in that month so was down to one original and the three New Girls, who arrived in November 2014. Last year the four of them managed 339 eggs between them and I didn’t have to buy eggs at all over winter. Since Christmas only Bonny has been laying but I’m expecting her to stop any day. Who me? :


With four consecutive spring/summer months of well-below-average rainfall, I’m learning some valuable lessons about growing my food. The main one is to keep fruit trees small by regular pruning, or else buy plants grafted onto dwarf rootstock. Small plants means a small root area, so it’s easy to keep the water up to the plant in dry times. It’s also easy to get a net or shadecloth over the plant when it’s fruiting, or a scorching 40+ temperature is forecast.

This was bought as a dwarf nectarine. It’s been in the ground four years and is still only 80 cm high :


Mind you, it hasn’t had a lot of attention; it’s in sandy soil without much nutrient, but it’s behind a row of wicking boxes and tubs so probably receives some nutrient run-off from them and gets watered when I water them. In its first spring it produced flowers along every branch :


Because it was so small I didn’t allow it to set any fruit. The following year there were many fruit, so I thinned to just a few. As you can see the leaf growth has a compact weeping habit. The fruit was hidden under the leaves so I didn’t bother to net. Bad decision! The birds (or tall rabbits), got them all.  This year, as soon as it started to set fruit, I put a net over it. There weren’t many, but they were bigger than any of my other stone fruit and they ripened beautifully on the plant :


I’m giving it regular feeds and water now, to try and speed up its growth a bit. This winter I’m going to buy a couple more. It’s a variety with white flesh and I’d like one with yellow flesh if they’re available.

Oh, and the label said it would get to about a metre and a half tall and wide. Just right!

I finally got around to pruning my Red Delicious apple so I could get a net over it. It didn’t set as much fruit as in previous years (the pruning was a bit drastic), but I was determined not to let the parrots have it :


Only about two dozen apples in all but worth keeping for myself. I’ve been keeping the water up to it to swell the fruit and the rain helped, too. I tried one after taking the photo and it was crisp and crunchy and sweet enough that I can begin harvesting. I’m not a great apple eater, but I’ve set myself one a day :


So the second month of official summer has passed. My calendar follows the solstices and equinoxes, so my summer started on the December solstice and ends on the March equinox. I’m counting the days—48 to go. It’s not that I don’t like the warm weather, but being on a bush block in a designated bushfire zone, summer is always a worrying time.

The New Year

January 3, 2016

I don’t ‘do’ New Year resolutions. It’s too easy to let them go. But one I have made is to try and do a regular monthly update to this blog, with at least a few smaller posts in between. The small ones will probably be of not much consequence, as I’ll probably just be desperate to write something, but I hope some readers will get some information of value from them.

So here we go with the first for 2016.

I staggered out of bed on New Year’s Day after a hot night of non-sleep to let the chooks out and see what had suffered due to the heat the previous day. The temperature had reached 39 Celsius in Melbourne.

Luckily I went down the back past the bath full of water in which I grow azolla fern for the chooks. A little sugar glider was flailing about in the water. I don’t know how long she’d* been there but she was wet and exhausted. I lifted her out and took her inside. She was still pretty feisty—yelling loudly in protest—so I dried her off as best as I could, trying to avoid the sharp little teeth—I’ve been nipped by one previously—and found a pillow case to put her in. Sorry, it’s not a very good photo. Look at those tiny feet. She gripped my hands really hard with them, maybe thankful to have something solid to hang on to at last :


I’m fortunate there’s a very good wildlife carer not far from me. It was 6.30 am, but I hoped she’d be up and she was. So there I was, at (almost) the crack of dawn, driving the 10 minutes to her home. I didn’t see another car on the roads.

The glider will be in good hands. The carer will keep her there, giving her nourishing feeds with an eye dropper until she’s ready to come home and then she’ll ring me and I’ll go and pick her up. Probably around dusk when her nest mates will come out of their tree hollow for the night’s feeding routine. I know which tree they’re in so will put her on the trunk and let her be off to join them. An interesting start to the New Year!

(*note: I don’t really know what sex she/he was but I can’t refer to something so tiny and beautiful as ‘it’, so I’m assuming  the most important sex).

I picked my first tomato a couple of days before the end of December. Cheating really, because it’s a very early variety anyway—Silvery Fir Tree, with pretty divided foliage :


Since I never buy the tasteless cricket balls that pass for supermarket tomatoes, I’m going to relish eating this, the first home-grown tomato I’ve had since last autumn.

The lettuces in the milk bottle planters had reached their use-by date so I removed them and replaced them with Purple King climbing beans :


The planters are on the side of the deck and I’ve attached strings so that the beans can climb up and onto the deck railings :


I’ve added more planters since I wrote about them previously, so it’s looking like a feature wall of sorts :


I’m growing endive now, instead of lettuce. I find it easier to grow; it doesn’t run to seed in hot weather like lettuce and the chooks prefer it to lettuce. It doesn’t have the sweeter flavour of lettuce, but put it in a mixed salad with a decent dressing and you wouldn’t know the difference :


There’s more here, in a wicking box with capsicums :


And in another wicking box with basil :


You can see from the photos that with small plants like these, I can get six to a wicking box. The boxes are 60 cm long x 40 cm wide x 25  cm deep. Sometimes a bit of thought is necessary to decide what plants will go together. The basil and capsicums will grow taller than the endive, which grows flatter, and they’ll shade it from the sun. That will keep the leaves soft and lush and tastier.

The thornless blackberries are colouring up :


I can’t wait to try these. Meanwhile their little apple pouches will stay on until they’re fully ripe :


This Naranka Gold pumpkin is doing well in an old recycling crate (not a wicking box—it has drainage at the bottom—but about the same size). I wrote about this variety here. This season I made sure I planted seed early so it would have time to flower and hopefully set fruit. It’s starting to trail and since the crate is beside the wood heap, I’m going to train it over the top :


The passionfruit climbing over the chook run has finally flowered and is setting fruit. It’s been there long enough; maybe it can read my mind—I was thinking of removing it :



Funnily enough, a lot of food plants that haven’t flowered well previously, did so this season. Does the (changing) climate have something to do with it? Do they know something I don’t? As long as I get more food from the garden, I’m happy.

This is pretty frightening

December 27, 2015

Watch this video of the decline of Arctic sea ice.

Something about the climate is definitely changing.

I don’t like it.


(Thanks to notsomethingelse blog for posting the link).


December 18, 2015

Environmental writer George Monbiot wrote a book called Heat, about climate change (should those c’s be capitalised now?).

Yeah, George, I know. It’s outside now. It was outside yesterday and the day before. And it will be there tomorrow and the next day. Three days of high 30’s temperatures and one topping 40. (I won’t bother to convert to fahrenheit for any American readers; you don’t want to know).

It’s 30 degrees in the living room now. Coming in from outside it seems positively frigid. I venture out only to shift the sprinklers coming from the water tanks and put more ice in the chook’s water. It’s said they won’t drink water if it’s above their body temperature and if they don’t drink for a day they will die. I give them watermelon and say useless things like, “keep your fluids up, Girls”. I’ve covered the run with an old sheet which I keep wet. They sit in the shade with beaks open. I apologise for the stupidity of my species which is causing these hotter summer days.

Four months of below average rainfall; well below average. The most important rainfall months, when fruit is swelling on the trees. It’s triage time for the garden.

The gloss has gone off the leaves of so many hard-leaved plants; a sure sign of dryness. Next the lower leaves will yellow and drop to the ground. The leaves of softer plants hang floppily beside the stems. Even if there is water at the roots, they can’t take it up quickly enough and wilted leaves will fry in the hot sun. Touch them and they crumble into fragments.

I can’t water every single thing in the ground. The ground-based food garden (I laughingly refer to it as a food forest) is on a slope with heavy clay-based soil that water doesn’t penetrate readily. Nor presumably, do roots. I’ve dug swales behind most of the fruit trees and fill them daily with water. Trying to keep ahead of the curling, wilting leaves is all I can do at the moment.

What can I let die?

Most of the feijoas are useless. They don’t flower much and set only small fruit which magically seems to disappear before it gets any bigger. Possums or parrots? I don’t know. The feijoas can be allowed to die.

Even the rosemary is stressed. Rosemary is supposed to be a Mediterranean plant…drought-tolerant. Nobody told it about climate change. Still, rosemary grows readily from cuttings…easy to replace. Maybe I could let them go as well.

The persimmon HAS to be watered. There are a dozen or so fruits forming. With no yields to speak of for a couple of years, and the promise of something this year, I can’t let that go.

The only good thing about deciding to let a plant die is planning what I can put in to replace it. After 15 years at this self-sufficiency thing, I’m starting to get a handle on what will survive where, what the rabbits will and won’t eat and what will give the most useful yields. I think about those who haven’t started on self-sufficiency yet; when the energy available to agriculture starts to seriously decline and supermarket shelves become increasingly barer, their learning curve will be pretty much vertical.

What about pumpkins and zucchini and their ilk. There are fewer bees around each year now. Hand pollination is mandatory. But excess yield can be dried. That’s worth having. Cucumbers can be pickled. I’m still eating last season’s bread & butter pickles. Cucumbers have to be kept going (anyway I grow them in wicking boxes now).

Speaking of wicking boxes….these have been worth their weight in gold. At last count I had over 40. Tomatoes, basil, beans, peas, lettuce, capsicums, parsley, kale and leeks, and much more. They thrive with constant water at the roots and with a regular topping of chook poo compost.  I can’t believe the growth in this one:


Two tomatoes (the front one going bananas…that upturned pot is holding it up), some climbing beans at the rear and a cucumber at either end. It gets about 4 litres of water once a day of course, but it has a 60 litre water storage bin beside it and it’s on the deck where I can keep an eye on it. Wicking beds and/or boxes are the way to go in a water-stressed future. Every time I get a load of chook poo compost to fill it, I make another wicking box.

Well, I’m off out to brave the heat again and offer ice and sympathy to the chooks.

Soon be winter, Girls.


Looking At Climate Change Like A Farmer

December 3, 2015

This is the link to a post of the same name as my title above from Gene Logsdon (for some unknown reason I can’t seem to do a straight reblog of WordPress posts anymore).

Gene is a semi-retired farmer who scatters pearls of wisdom throughout his blog, The Contrary Farmer. I really like the way he views climate change from a farmer’s perspective in his latest post. Have a read and maybe re-think your own attitudes. I’m re-thinking mine.

Climate Change

July 26, 2014

For the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a series of on-line courses with Open2Study, one of the Open University programs.

Each course consists of 4 modules and each module consists of a series of 8-10 topics, with accompanying short videos. According to the time frames of each course, a module is meant to be completed in a week, so each course should be completed in 4 weeks. It’s possible to get ahead somewhat, although the assessments held at the end of each module may not be available until the required date.

In addition to revising my knowledge of basic physics and microbiology, I picked a course on the subject of climate change

It has been fascinating and even though I thought I was well up in climate change, there are new things I’ve learned.

I just started Module 4—”Fixing it”— and it starts with the lecturer, Prof. Lesley Hughes, talking with well-known climate scientist, Prof. Tim Flannery. It’s well worth watching.

Prof. Flannery thinks we can fix it. I have to say I’m not as positive as he is, but you’ll have to make up your own minds.

I thought that because of the nature of the courses, I wouldn’t be able to embed a video in this blog, but I tried and it worked (there’s a written transcript with each video but that seems not to have been embedded).

So enjoy (and consider taking some of the courses that interest you).

Why you should grow your own food

May 10, 2014

Years ago I read this essay by Jared Diamond, and so began my hatred of the industrial agriculture model and my determination to escape from the toxic effects of it.

Here’s another really good post which goes into further detail, in particular with the use of poisons and GMO’s which Diamond didn’t mention, as it wasn’t such a big deal when he wrote his essay.

The woes of industrial agriculture.

Send this to your friends who are still dependent on supermarkets for their food. Commit this information to memory and try to wake people up. I’m sure the average Joe knows none of this. The need to walk away from industrial agriculture has never been more urgent.

Systemic collapse is just over the next horizon.

Lessons from the meltdown

January 18, 2014

I took the camera around the garden this morning (loving the coolness!) to assess the damage.

The most important thing is to learn from this. If this sort of weather is going to be the new normal, we have to learn and adapt or die. Natural selection eliminates the unfit and preserves that which adapts and survives. That goes for us, our gardens and our animals.


Most important, three happy chooks who survived:

heat 022

It was upsetting to see that both Green Gavin and rabidlittlehippy each lost a hen to heat distress. In my case, the Girl’s secure run and playground is close to the house on the morning sun side. Once the sun goes over the house there’s shade at least on the secure run. There’s also a large tarp over the top and a row of greenery along one side. I covered the floor there with leaves and kept them wet. The Girls made themselves a hollow in the wet leaves and sat there during the hottest part of the day. I pegged a heavy old curtain over the playground and sprayed it every half-hour with the hose. Eventually going out into the sun to do it started to stress me out, so I used the hose which I always connect to the cold water outlet of the washing machine on fire risk days and with that I could stand in the laundry doorway and spray all over the chook’s area, without going outside.

In the garden, the first thing to notice was that everything in wicking boxes was unaffected. Frogdancer has also commented that her wicking boxes were OK. I think it’s the way to go. I lost some cucumbers planted in the garden down the back, I’m guessing because they were lacking sufficient water at the roots. These cucumbers in a wicking box were unaffected. Not even any burned leaves (no, I didn’t cut them off for the photo!):


So long as there’s plenty of water in the root zone, plants won’t be too badly affected. Even if I think I’ve watered the garden well, that sort of weather really rips it out of the plants and if there’s no adequate reserve in the soil, the plants suffer. In a wicking box the soil below the drainage holes is always saturated. I could have watered every second or third day and still not have lost any plants. The only thing I did was cover the beans in wicking boxes with shadecloth. Those large leaves lose water faster than they can take it up and even though there’s plenty of water in the root zone, the leaves will fry.

Down in the food forest there was a lot of damage. Unfortunately, it’s on a slope (the only place on the property that was cleared of existing vegetation), and the soil is heavy and compacted. It’s hard to get water into it. If I stand there holding a hose, within a couple of minutes the water’s running off, so I water by gravity from the tank using a fine spray, which means it takes ages to water the whole area. The furthest parts were really dry and plants there suffered.

The loquat’s large leaves really burned:

heat 028

The comfrey just lay down and (almost) died:

heat 027

That’s not a problem, though. I’ll cut it back and stuff it into a bin of water and make nutrient tea. I’d been going to do it anyway, but just hadn’t got around to it.

I’d picked all the Satsuma plums, but there were a few on the Mariposa that were still green. They’re not green any more:

heat 024

Anyone for stewed pears?:

heat 023

The rhubarb plants in the hugelkultur mound were OK as they had dappled shade from eucalypts, but this one was out in the open:

heat 019

I’d been giving the tamarillos plenty of water, but those dinner-plate sized leaves were not going to like the heat regardless:

heat 012

The developing fruits were mostly OK but a few got a bit of a tan:

heat 013

Here’s one surprise…the asparagus fern. It hasn’t had any water except rain since I stopped picking the spears in November, yet it was untouched. Since it’s about 2 metres tall, it makes me think a row of asparagus might be a good shelter for a row of something smaller, say strawberries:

heat 026

The corn was fine. I’ve been pumping water into it and it had a tamarillo for afternoon shade:

heat 018

Another surprise was the quince. It’s next to the loquat, so is in a dry spot, but look at the new tip growth. Green and unburnt. Those dark spots on the older leaves are the fungus disease it always gets—quince rust, I think—not burned areas. Maybe this is another plant that can tolerate dryness and be used as a shade tree:

heat 029

You know it’s hot when bracken will burn. This frond was out in the open, but even so:

heat 020

Redcurrants won’t tolerate hot sun. I knew this from last year and should have protected them:

heat 031

Burnt apples:

heat 034

And right in the middle of it all, tomatoes in a wicking box, untouched:

heat 033

What have I learned? Wicking boxes are the way to go for vegetables. They’re small, so individual shade can be erected, if necessary over a single box. Plants with large, soft leaves, like beans, need shade even in a wicking box. Site them so that they receive morning sun only. Poke the boxes  in behind a tall plant that shades them from the afternoon sun. I have a row against the side of the deck, which gets only morning sun.They were fine.

Cover any developing fruit. If you can’t keep water up to everything, prioritise. I’m letting one orange tree go, the Lane’s Late Navel. It’s never been a good bearer and I have a Valencia and a Washington Navel which are better trees and get priority. It’s under the drip line of a eucalypt and even though it gets afternoon shade (it wasn’t burnt) it competes poorly for water. When I take it out I’ll put a couple of wicking boxes in it’s place. They’ll get shade from the eucalypt and the plants in them won’t have to compete with its roots.

Look after your animals. That goes without saying. The chooks were my biggest worry. I’d have taken them inside if I could. I bought a half-watermelon at the beginning of the week and gave them some every day. They love it and it helped to keep them hydrated. I didn’t get any myself!

I’m still making notes about what did well and what didn’t and how I can change things for a better outcome next time. I think it’s safe to assume summers like this are going to be the norm from here on.

Melbourne Meltdown

January 17, 2014

This morning’s paper is calling it the Melbourne Meltdown. Four consecutive days of 40-plus temperatures (and the previous one in the high 30’s).

It hasn’t been pleasant. I don’t have air conditioning. The trees in the bush section of the property do a marvellous job of cooling the atmosphere, though. I’ve been working in a friend’s garden nearby and there is mostly lawn and no vegetation higher than the boundary fence. Even on mild days, with temperatures in the mid 20’s, I’m amazed at how hot it gets out in the open, compared to my place.

There are some interesting comments and articles in the morning’s paper.

Electricity network and economic specialists say the security of Victoria’s energy supply will depend on what people are prepared to pay for power. They always throw this cost thing at us while they’re putting up prices. Maybe it’s true. I’m not an energy expert, but I did learn some interesting facts.

Peak demand occurred on Thursday at 10,300 megawatts. Typical weekday demand at this time of year is about 6600 megawatts. Pretty much all of that increase, I’m thinking, would be from air conditioners. If demand exceeds supply, parts of the system will be turned off. No power, no air conditioners. It’s nicely self-limiting, except that those of us without air conditioners have to suffer, too.

It’s too much of a leap to say that using an air conditioner is irresponsible (some of my best friends have air conditioners after all), but when you’re lucky enough to have one, and you don’t have solar to run it, using it wisely is, well….wise. That applies especially to businesses as well as individuals.

Someone on the letters page complained about unwise use. He went to the Australian Open (tennis) and some of the foyers in the areas were airconditioned to arctic temperatures, yet had their doors open. Dumber than dumb! Mt Franklin, one of the many sponsors, had erected an inflatable air-conditioned dome in an outdoor space. Not responsible. If I was a buyer of their mineral water (I’m not), I would stop buying it and write and tell them why.

He also overheard one fellow tennis-goer saying he had left the aircon going at home just for the dog. That is truly irresponsible and stupid and ignorant. I hope he told the dog-owner so.

Someone else on the letters page asked how much longer will local councils allow people to build houses without eaves, cross-ventilation and sufficient garden space to grow shady trees. Amen to that. I can remember seeing whole estates of new homes going up; all the houses without eaves. In a climate like ours, totally stupid.

There was something about solar use as well. South Australia is not in such a position of power failures because it has proportionally more rooftop solar. It’s estimated they’re meeting 7-8% of total demand. In Victoria, it’s much less, only about 2%. In 2012, the Victorian government cut payments for solar energy (feed-in tariffs), from 25 cents per kWh to 8 cents—which reduces the incentive to go solar. In my view, this doesn’t matter; it’s what you save by NOT drawing from the grid that makes it profitable. There’s a huge feel-good factor, too.

In another article the wholesale price of electricity was quoted as $60 per megawatt hour. That’s 6 cents per kWh. It’s what the retailers pay the generators to provide the power. It’s set by the balance between supply and demand; when demand goes up the price goes up. I’ve seen elsewhere, in defence of the current low feed-in tariff, that the tariff is set by that wholesale price. So 8 cents per kWh gives them a profit of 2 cents. OK as far as it goes, but they’re selling it on at 20-30 cents per kWh and hitting the consumer with a supply charge as well.

There was another article about the heat-island effect. Melbourne City Council has found temperature variation of up to 4 degrees between the city centre and suburbs. Cities pull in the heat because of the prevalence of heat-absorbing materials such as dark-coloured pavements and roofs, concrete, and a lack of shade and green space. Cities don’t cool down overnight either; they trap and store heat. There’s a thermal image of a large tree at the corner of a city intersection on a day when the maximum daily temperature was 32 degrees. Under the tree, the temp was 38; out on the roadway it was nearly 81 (ouch).

A sustainable cities expert from the University of SA says we need to increase urban green spaces by 20% by 2020. Roof gardens, green walls and building materials that reflect heat. I’m all for that!

Melbourne has the highest number of heat-related deaths of any of the capital cities according to the federal government’s 2013 report State of Australian Cities, estimated at 200 per year. By contrast the state’s 2013 road toll was 242. The greatest number of deaths occurred in those over 75. The number of heat-related deaths is expected to double by 2030. It didn’t say whether this figure has been adjusted for population increase.

Anyway, after I’d finished reading the paper I went shopping. What a joy to drive whilst being blasted with cold air! I momentarily thought of pootling round the countryside all day with the car aircon on, but of course I wouldn’t do it. The shopping centre wasn’t as cool as I’d hoped it would be, so maybe the management sensibly thought to ramp up the aircon temp a bit. More credit to them if so. It was so pleasant around the usually cooler meat section in the supermarket. I wondered what they’d think if I took a chair and a book and spent the day there? I might have done it if I could have taken the chooks there, too.

Speaking of which, the poor Girls have been suffering mightily these past days. Their secure run has always had a tarp over it to keep out the rain (remember rain?), and I’ve thrown a heavy ex-curtain over their playground which I hose down every hour. I’ve put a barrow load of leaves, which I keep wet, into the run and they’ve been spending some time sitting on them in the shade. On Tuesday, I thought I would lose them, they were so stressed, panting like dogs. The two that were still laying stopped a week ago, and now Molly is moulting, like the sensible girl that she is. If you’re wearing a hot coat, take it off. Lady hasn’t laid for over two months and has been poorly, with downcast tail and lethargic habit. Since none of them have ever let me pick them up, I can’t even begin to find out what’s wrong with her. She’s still eating and drinking, loves her treats, puts herself to bed early and looks at me sadly when I ask what’s wrong. It could be an impacted egg mass or a tumour or something else entirely. Cheeky is still, well…Cheeky. Eating like a horse, not laying, not liking the heat, but having a whale of a time otherwise. I’ve promised them this will be the last day of heat.

I hope I’m right. In a future post I’ll tell what happened to the garden. It’s not pretty.