Work Calls   21 comments

It’s amazing what the summer brings. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve found myself without a single day that I haven’t been doing at least some work for one of my two farmhand jobs or working on the garden. That doesn’t mean life has been crushing or brutal—some of those days have only involved a bit of work and others have involved quite a bit of gardening that proved enjoyable and invigorating as much as anything. But it has kept me busy and pretty consistently feeling in service of a never ending to do list, even in the moments when I’m not working on one of the tasks.

On that to do list for awhile now has been to write a new blog post. As I imagine is obvious, that keeps slipping further down the list. I’ll hope that most of my readers understand that sort of prioritizing. My jobs take precedent over the blog and my garden screams a bit more loudly than this blog does. When I’m looking to get some seeding done before the end of the day to hopefully have some home grown salad on the table in a few weeks or taking advantage of cool and cloudy weather to trellis tomatoes in the hoop house, I have to prioritize the actual work of this life over the writing about the work of this life.

Furthermore, when a long day of work is followed up by some evening gardening, dinner and zoning out (or reading, or getting to bed early) is much easier than writing a blog post. Simply put, I’ve been a bit too fried of late to get a good post written. I’ve sat down with the intent to write just such a post a few times, but it hasn’t quite come together. The inspiration has been lost in exhaustion.

So here I am writing something easier, so that I can get something written and posted and let you all know that I haven’t entirely disappeared or lost myself in more basketball (though I am watching the NBA Finals.) This is my meta update. And there are updates to my life, beyond what I’ve just written.

Aside from the work I’m doing—or as an element of all this work—is the fact that two WWOOFers, Lily and Kayleigh, are now living with me and helping out on the farm and with my garden. They worked at Ginger’s place—the farm I interned on last year—for six weeks and decided they didn’t want to leave the Oregon coast. So they’re staying the rest of the summer. After a bit of checking around, talking, debating, thinking about it, and making arrangements, it worked out for them to move into the house I’m living in now—staying in the second bedroom I hadn’t been using. So now I have helpers, roommates, friends, companions, dare I even say students. They play a wide variety of roles and so far it’s been a great arrangement.

One of the consequences of their arrival, though, has been an increased workload. It’s ironic that help can add to the work, but so be it. I’m not complaining about that; the workload has increased because I’m now getting more done with the motivation of having others around to help out. I even am attempting to teach a bit, though I still feel a far way from being a truly knowledgeable teacher. The garden keeps expanding, though it also still seems so far from complete. The hoop house is getting filled out with tomatoes and eggplants and peppers. New beds are being worked up and seeded outside and I’m seeding trays and pots to eventually be transplanted. There’s a lot going on and if much of this comes through, I’ll eventually be swimming in more food than the three of us likely can eat.

Not a bad problem to have.

I also have been working more for the farm here, both in helping to lead Lily and Kayleigh when they’re working and also in doing other tasks without them that seem to be cropping up as the season wears on. I’m now working two full days for Lance and Tammi, in addition, and this week I start working a second farmer’s market on Thursdays. So that leaves me working full days for Lance and Tammi on Tuesday and Friday, working markets on Thursday and Sunday, and fitting in other work here around the farm and gardening on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. And I try to get in some socializing and down time, as well. The season is in full swing indeed.

This isn’t to complain, I want to be clear. It’s been really inspiring having such purpose and feeling so in service to a wide variety of people, animals, land, and personal goals. After my stretch of distraction and lack of accomplishment, I feel like I’m making up for that down time with a flurry of activity and good work. But it’s also been tiring and I’m still trying to find my feet; to find a pace that’s effective and sustainable. I think it’s going to take a bit more thought and experimentation.

I feel, though, that all this is moving me toward something. I have vague thoughts and ideas and schemings about what that may be. Suddenly living and working with two women who I also am, in a few small ways, teaching and leading has helped to affirm for me that I could manage and lead WWOOFers in other capacities. Gardening and growing my own food is helping to affirm that I could run some kind of farm or homestead of my own. Figuring out what tasks need to be done, prioritizing and accomplishing those tasks, and just generally being in the mode of management is also helping to affirm that I could manage my own place. None of it would be easy—and we’ll see where I am with all this in a few months—but all this good work is reminding me that I’m capable and that there are opportunities out there, so long as I’m open to them, willing to be creative and flexible, and willing to take a few risks.

I’m not sure exactly where all this is leading, but it feels like it may be somewhere good. The future suddenly feels a bit more close to the present.

We’ll see. In the meantime, forgive me my lingering silences and know that this blog still is important and still remains on my to do list. It’s just that there are plants and animals and people depending on me and they have to take a bit more priority at the moment, while the sun’s (occasionally) shining and the days are (somewhat) warm. Sometimes the season calls for contemplation and sometimes it calls for work. It’s calling for work at the moment. The contemplation will be back, and I’ll no doubt manage to sneak it in, at times, amongst the work over the next couple months, but for now the work calls a bit more insistently.

I hope to get something up later this week. We’ll see if the garden and my sanity allows it.

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Posted June 18, 2012 by Joel Caris in Farm Life, Gardening, Meta, Work

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21 responses to “Work Calls

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  1. Believe me, we understand. It’s the busy season. Postponed a bit by the rain. And, more rain. I fine myself putting off books I want to read and movies I want to watch til next winter. Some projects, ditto. Right now, building some kind of food dryer is a priority. Looks like the apples and prunes are going to produce a bumper crop. Unless the two deer I spooked in the yard today, become a real problem. But, they can only reach so high. Hacking away at blackberries, mowing the lawn on occasion and the Dusk Slug Patrol (my record is 137 after a particularly hard late afternoon rain). Squeezed in making some fudge for the neighbors and putting up a couple of jars of blueberry freezer jam.

    • Yeah, the rain keeps showing up and putting a . . . well, a damper on things. But plants keep growing. And if it’s rainy and cloudy, that’s a good day to work in the hoop house, if you have a hoop house. Which I do! I’ve almost got that sucker filled out. Just need to start more basil to finish it off. Today’s going to be tomato trellising/pruning and weeding/clean up in there.

      Building a solar food dryer sounds like a great plan. We have an apple tree that looks mighty loaded, though that may just become hard cider. I’m very eager for the blackberries to come on. Jam, soda, syrup . . . it’s all in the plans. I’m still getting a touch of reading done, but it’s not the highest priority these days.

  2. It’s nice to know in more detail what your life is like at the moment. Thanks for the update!

  3. Hi Joel –

    Not to worry, we all know you’re there and busy; even more so now that ‘the season’ is upon you. So it goes with farming – and writing can be fit in the interstices. As I recall, awhile back you indicated that the blog entries might become a once per week thing – I took that to mean ‘more-or-less’ or ‘on average’. Another possibility is to move the writing time to the early morning and spend ten minutes or so per day writing and then culminating that in a once a week (or so) entry.

    As for the future, one never knows what’s ‘lurking’ around the corner waiting for one to show up..

    • I tend to write my posts all at once, but your idea of a bit of writing each morning would probably be a better way to go about it these days. And it might allow me to get something satisfactory written on some of the more complex topics I’ve been thinking of (like the “Activism of Intimacy” post I keep thinking about.) The question is how well that method will work for me. I’ll have to play around with some scheduling to give it a try.

      And you’re quite right on the future. It consistently takes me by surprise.

  4. Hi Joel,

    Ahhhh, grasshopper, Confucius master say, sanity first, chop wood and fetch water second, socialise third, blog fourth, only then shall you be ready to go out into the world. hehe! I think the Archdruid mentioned sometime back that he was also a fan of the 70’s TV show Kung Fu with David Carradine. However, being so young back then I only have hazy memories of the show though except for that quote. There are a few websites with quotes from the show and the quotes are really clever and quite profound.

    Farming is a whole different way of thinking in relation to work. Don’t they say, “make hay whilst the sun shines”? Here it sort of happens in bursts of energy and then not much for a bit, then further bursts of energy. I’ve been wondering about this because that is a condition that seems to fit well with the overall human condition. 8.30am to 5.30pm always seemed to chafe at me a bit. What do you reckon? A farmer I know around here says, “hurry up and wait”, I’m still not sure whether he’s taking the piss or not?

    We’ve had a burst of warm clear weather here in the past week, so I’ve been running around like a crazy person getting jobs done outside before the weather turns. Part of this involves fixing things that just don’t work or are failing. Everything here is about systems and the simpler they are and the better they work, and the less I have to work (or make repairs) in the long term. Still, a long way to go though.

    Last night was weird! I was out eating Mexican food and I must confess that plentiful Sangria was consumed and then the floor and walls of the restaurant started this crazy wavy/shaky feeling – hard to describe. Anyway, I made the mistake of mentioning it and the general conclusion was either: pissed; or nuts. A very harsh audience.

    On the way back, the valley below had the coldest temperature I’d ever seen here around here -2 degrees celsius (28.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Higher up in the range where I live it was 1 degree celsius (33.8 Fahrenheit). It’s certainly not going to do the citrus trees any good. Oh well, they’ll have to deal.

    So, I get up this morning and found out that there’d been the biggest earthquake in 109 years around here. 5.3 on the richter scale, but centred east of me, but still well within the shake zone:

    http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/quake-shakes-state-20120619-20m88.html

    Anyway, tomorrow being the winter solstice, the weather is turning for the usual winter conditions, so I get to hibernate for a bit.

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for the reply. Respect for your honesty.

    Regards

    Chris

    • Hi Chris –
      Thanks to you for your respect – and it isn’t just honesty I’m putting out there. As an older person I feel a strong responsibility to share at least part of my story when I encounter folks who appear to be embarking on a similar journey; not as advice, mind you, but merely to point out the pluses and minuses of such an endeavor that I encountered myself.
      During the last 18 or so years of my so-called career in land use planning, I was in large part a consultant to folks who either owned or wanted to purchase rural property to live on. The land-use regulations for such here in Oregon are among the most rigorous in the U.S. and rightly so, but at the same time my philosophy about such things is that if you own a piece of land, you ought to be able to build a house on it.

      Not to blow my own horn, but I made a pretty good living interpreting the rules for such clients and creating and sheparding their applications through the permit process – which could take months. One of the first questions I asked such clients was, “Why do you want to live in the country and do you fully know and appreciate what that entails?” Most of them had pretty good reasons but had no real clue what was in store for them. So I’d attempt to clue them in. I lost a number of clients this way, but they all thanked me.

      • Martin,

        To be a fly on the wall during some of those conversations would be pretty fascinating, I imagine. I’m still figuring out what it is to live in the country, but yeah . . . it seems you really have to live it for a bit to start to truly know. Good on you for providing some advice, whether or not people wanted to hear it.

    • Ah, sanity first. I must keep that in mind. It does make sense, but I’m not always the best at prioritizing my sanity, though I’m better than some people I know. Always working on that.

      Farming definitely happens in bursts. I’ve been in a long burst of late just because I’ve been in this stretch of trying to get my garden up to speed since I started so late. And there’s still so much space to fill! I’m starting to calm down a bit now that I have a good amount of stuff in the ground and things are growing, even with the regular rains. I know that most of my garden will be a fall/winter one and so I can be a little less rushed. Still, there’s a never ending list of things to do, it seems—though I’m growing potentially a ton of food, so that’s a big part of it. I just keep getting and putting in more winter squash plants because . . . well, I’m a winter squash junkie. If it all comes through, I’m going to have hundreds of pounds.

      But yes, “hurry up and wait” is a term I’m familiar with. Every time I go out and look at the plants and think, “Grow, grow grow!” that’s basically when that phrase becomes relevant. Initially, you do this flurry of work prepping soil and getting things in the ground and all that, but then all you can really do is mostly sit back and wait for the plant to do all the real work of growing. And that’s something that you can only control a little bit. Mostly, you just have to trust in the natural process of things, hope all goes well, and hope you’ve provided favorable enough conditions.

      Yeah, sounds like you were pissed at the Mexican restaurant. Or, at least, let’s hope so. I’d say a better option than being nuts.

      Enjoy the hibernation. I love that about winter. Though the flurry of work in summer and all the (occasional here) invigorating sunshine is quite the treat, as well.

  5. Hi Joel,

    I’m still learning how to prioritise tasks too, and I wasn’t kidding when I said I reckon that it takes about a decade of seasons before you get competent. On this note, I’ve had to move some fruit trees over the past few days but if I hadn’t planted them where they were in the first place I wouldn’t have learned why it was such a bad spot.

    The weather this winter has been strange, as some almond trees haven’t quite worked out that the depths of winter are here and are still in full leaf. Who knows what it means? It has been warmer than normal this winter too.

    Ha! You must have been at the restaurant too. I’ve never felt an earthquake before, makes you wonder about the supposedly extinct volcanic massif that I’m living on the side of….

    Hi Martin,

    Ahh, planning. I ran the gauntlet of the planning scheme to get permission to build my house here. The planning scheme makes the zoning and land usage understandable, but statutory authorities like the fire authority and the water authority can also have a say here and you never know how it will turn out. My house got knocked back by the fire authority (whom I was also a volunteer member), after they’d already said it was OK to build here. I had to end up getting a consultant who specialises in bushfire behaviour to write an expensive report on the location and design of the house before getting the OK to build. The house has ended up being one of only less than a handful in the country built to such complex standards incorporating many unusual commercial products and systems. Needless to say, it ended up being a lot more expensive than I’d originally planned on. As the English say, mustn’t grumble…

    A lot of people around here have similar problems with the water authorities and they have land with a legal right to build, but are stopped by the statutory water authority. That land has no resale value now.

    You’re right about having a reality talk with people before living in such locations. We don’t have children so we’re on a massive adventure and couldn’t care less, but other people up this way are here because they are lost. Still, I don’t judge them for that and the land up this way requires active caretakers / stewards. It has evolved over the past couple of millennia to human interference and management and it is a bit of a disaster when it doesn’t get maintained. Speaking of which I have to do more of such things tomorrow… Hard work.

    Hi Lew,

    Have you go chickens or ducks to feed the slugs to? The local birds would also appreciate them too.

    Regards

    Chris

    • Well, ‘everyone’ gets involved here in Oregon too – especially in the rural areas. Wildfire is a big concern here, especially in wooded areas, so the fire safety and forestry people often get involved, as do the water resource people. Each county has a ‘Water Master’ who is in charge of regulating well-drilling so as to prevent encroachment on water rights; though water rights per se are more a matter of riparian concern, as in access to stream flow for irrigation and such. And then the Hearings Officer has to be satisfied that a new dwelling will not pose an encroachment on normal farming practices in the immediate vicinity – which is the most difficult ‘hoop’ to jump through of all, since essentially one must prove a negative. In reality, what they’re worried about is that new residents will complain about the odor from the pig farm down the road and will therefore cause the pig farmer to be required to diaper his pigs. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but it illustrates the point.

      And all this (among other things) has to be satisfied before one is allowed to drill a well, which may produce less than the required water yield for a dwelling (used to be 10 gpm minimum) and to test the soil to determine whether the site will support a septic system.

      Once all that is squared away, the property-owner is allowed to apply for a building permit.

      I realize, after rereading the above, that I may seem sour on the ‘system’ – I’m not. Even though it all may seem like bureaucratic ‘overkill’, it isn’t; it’s really necessary to preserve farm and forest land here. Otherwise the place would have become over-developed decades ago.

    • Chris; No chickens or ducks …. yet. I just moved out here to the “boonies” in February, so it’s just the beginning of the adventure. (“An adventure is a disaster that turns out, ok.” tm. 🙂 ) . I’m thinking three or four chickens next year. Some friends of mine have Barnevelders, which strike me as a sweet breed. There’s birds all over the place, and I encourage them. But, they don’t seem to be doing their job. Also, the snakes. Luckily, in this part of the country, we have no poisonous snakes. They always give me a bit of a turn, but once I know they are there, I send them on their way with a respectful greeting. Possums also eat slugs, but they’re soooo nasty. The dog (that came with the place) has killed 5 so far. Which doesn’t bother me at all.

      I have uncovered / discovered 6 roses so far. One is an old Moss Rose that my landlord thinks came from root stock that came out from the east coast in the 1880s. Hmmm? I’m straying all over the place. Time for a nap and a deep breath, I think.

  6. Hi Martin,

    Nah, you’re cool. I never got the “sour” that you mentioned in your comment. I suspect that you are too close to the system itself and have had to sit through too many difficult and unpleasant conversations with land owners over the years? I’m just guessing and could be very wrong though.

    I did my own town planning application, with the exception of the bushfire consultant. So no stress, I get where you are at, having been through the system on the other side of the fence from you.

    My only point is that it is just difficult for land owners to know what they can do with their land. As a bit of background to this, the current system here has many layers of complexity. Over here, the zoning can say that it is OK for a landowner to use their land to be able to build a dwelling on it. However, it is almost impossible to find out what the statutory authorities consider as an appropriate use for that particular block of land prior to purchasing it.

    The reason I had trouble was because of the Black Saturday bushfires (173 dead, 2,000 houses lost and 450,000 hectares burnt) in February 2009. The country fire authority had previously given a green light to building a house here, but after Black Saturday, well to say they were gun shy is an understatement.

    I received agreement to build from them only if I consented to building a house to the highest standards of fire resistance.

    Even worse, the state government changed the building regulations to really up the ante as well in these areas. Basically, what they ended up with is building standards that are so difficult and complex that they’ll let you live in a high risk area, but it’s going to be hard / expensive to build your house. The consequence of this is that there will be very few new houses built up my way in future years. When a fire does come through, quite a few people may find that they are under insured and can’t afford the rebuild.

    However, fortunately I’d come across fire resistant systems and materials in previous building projects having lived inner city for a few years. These arose because of the historical incident of the Great fire of London, when a fire in a bakery took out huge chunks of the city and also just happened to eliminate the plague. True story!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_fire_of_london

    In inner urban areas the external walls had to be fire resistant to a certain standard, so it wasn’t new information. What was difficult is a fire resistant roof, windows, doors, sub floor, under verandas. What a headache!!!! Oh well, it’s been interesting at least, and at least the house is small.

    Anyway, it’s not all about me. Why do you guys persist in using wells over in the US? Wouldn’t rainwater tanks be cheaper? I must admit though 10gpm (38 litres per minute) is pretty massive water pressure. Does this pressure well up out of the ground or is it just the maximum pressure with a big pump?

    Ha! We get the planning permit – which is permission to build from the local council – and then you have to get a building permit from a building surveyor to ensure that the building will comply with the building standards. Over here the plumbing and electrical works also require a registered person to undertake the works and you won’t get the final certificate of occupancy without their certificates.

    Regards

    Chris

    • Hi Chris –

      I started out working on the government side of the fence, which is where I really ‘learned the trade’, so to speak, in both urban and regional planning. Then I was invited to join an architectural firm as the in-house planner, which I did until the firm went bankrupt during the 1980-81 recession. I was not an employee of the firm, as such, but worked under their umbrella as an associate and had my own clientele as well. I did all their planning applications in exchange for a fee plus free rent and secretarial/draftsman support. It was a pretty sweet deal for a number of years.

      When the firm went down I found my self in business as a sole proprietor with about 6 clients on the books. Fortunately, one of them was a wealthy family with a huge nursery business (plants & trees) and lots of diverse property to monitor. They were my ‘flywheel’ for a long time.

      It was at this juncture I undertook to become a consultant to owners of rural property who wanted to build a house on it. I did this for precisely the reasons you outlined above until I retired about 12 years ago. Made a pretty decent living at it, too.

      Drilled wells (or certified springs) are required for provision of on-site potable water here. Rain catchment is allowed, but only for non-potable use. By the way, the 10gpm is pumped yield based on a four-hour initial test done by the driller when the well is first drilled. The test on my own well barely made that initially and dropped significantly to about half that after we put in our own pump, which is why I added rain catchment. The later drop (after the downslope neighbors tapped our aquifer) went down to about 10gph or less.

      I fully understand your frustration with the fire resistance regs. However, from the perspective of the govt. it makes sense if you realize they’re probably looking to preserve life and property and aren’t just being control freaks. My current (and long-time) lady and I lived in another place out in the woods for a number of years – she had inherited the place – and one of the first things I did was put a metal roof on it and set big Rainbird sprinklers at both ends of the roof peak to wet down the roof and an area around the house (which I had cleared out to 50 feet except for one big Maple tree on the southwest corner) in case of wildfire. Never had to turn i on, thank Whoever, though we did use it to cool the place down once in awhile during summer heat waves. Needless to say, this place had a much better well than the place I described earlier.

      Martin

    • Chris; I’m just north of Martin in Washington State. As far as cisterns go, here, we can’t have them. Laws vary from state to state and change a lot. Just a couple of years ago, I was told that cisterns were out as … to put it as simply as I can, every drop of rain that fell out of the sky belonged to the state.

      In practice, though, if your out of the way, if you don’t have kids to “endanger”, if you don’t plan on selling whatever you build AND you stay on the right side of your neighbors so they don’t complain, you can get away with a lot. Then again, who wants to live with that hanging over their heads?

      • Exactly. We were actually about to be made illegal by changes in the regs on the 20 acre place and, had we not sold it, would have had to go through quite a bit of hassle to stay there – though we would have been allowed five years or so to come into compliance.

  7. Hi Martin and Lew,

    All is now explained. I wonder if anyone ever explained to the powers that be how the water got into the aquifer in the first place? hehe! It is fascinating the differences between countries as over here it is the other way around with most people in rural areas using above ground water tanks (galvanised steel, food grade polyethylene, or concrete) filled by rainwater collected from their roof. Some people do have water bores (wells) but they are generally used only to water gardens (ie. non potable). The hard thing about wells is that you never know how much you (or your neighbours) have pumped out of the aquifer, at least with a rainwater tank, you can’t ignore the water level indicator.

    For your interest, getting water trucked in here costs about AU$160 (about US$160) for 16,000 litres (4,210 gallons), although if it is a drought, they’ll charge you more and put you on a waiting list – usually several weeks long to sometimes a month or two.

    I’m not stressed out about the fire resistance building codes. I probably didn’t explain myself well enough in the previous comment. I was actually going to put my own fire resistant systems in place anyway.

    The problem was that it was legislated that I had to include only systems that had passed the CSIRO (government science body) fire rating tests. There was no funding made available to suppliers to pay for the tests which were about $50,000 each whether they passed or failed. As a consequence, there were few suppliers that wanted to develop products to pass the tests and only a very small market for the products. I couldn’t afford even one test but had no choice but to use the products!

    So where I wanted to just build a steel sheet and framed hinged fire shutter to cover a window or door during a fire, I had to use a tested product. The suppliers wanted to make their money back on a small market, so a sliding double glazed glass door 2.4m x 2.4m (8ft x 8ft) with fire shutter costs about AU$5,600 each. Needless to say, I have only a few windows in this small house!

    I’m not whingeing, I’m just trying to explain my earlier comments and put them into some context for you. It is an unpleasant circumstance to be caught by strange legislation (like your rain water collection being illegal).

    Regards

    Chris

    • I haven’t been following it very closely, but there’s some kind of city / county hoopla over installing sprinklers inside of new construction that requires some astronomical gallons per minute flow. Don’t even get me started on septic systems.

      There’s all kinds of trends to consider. On one hand, as times get tougher it may be beyond the ability of, say the county, to enforce a lot of regulations. Lack of manpower, etc. On the other, counties may beef up enforcement as a cash cow to raise more money through permitting. Then, too, you have a lot of the old farts retiring out of the system and new blood coming in. People that are younger and not “from here” who at least have a nodding acquaintance with different or alternative forms of water supply, sewer systems, building methods or electrical service. Who are less likely to dismiss something a little different, out of hand.

      • As far as I know (which isn’t very far these days), many jurisdictions have required interior high-flow sprinklers in commercial/office buildings for a long time – practically forever. As for residential requirements, I suppose it’s a matter of how far away the fire trucks (pumpers) are: i.e., if the house is going to be built ‘way out in the boons, it’s likely the sprinkler requirement will be applied, since the city/county has an obligation to preserve and protect as best it can. It’d be a different matter if the fire dept. was private, they only have a contract to ‘preserve & protect’ by showing up – as long as your dues are paid up.

        Then there are ‘regular’ residential districts like those in Colorado that went up in flame & smoke this week, not to mention the losses in the almost annual burns in southern California and elsewhere. Methinks its only going to get worse until folks figure out that living in the woods can be a hazardous deal.

  8. Hi Lew and Martin,

    Yeah, I reckon that local councils have trouble enforcing regulations because of resource difficulties. It sort of now works over here on the basis of: as long as you don’t annoy anyone, you should be OK… This is a better system for neighbour disputes anyway as it sort of forces a community to come together and communicate. It’s kind of funny but you get the impression living in a place like this that other people know your business as well as you do!

    Ha! You’re right too Lew about not dismissing new approaches out of hand.

    It is interesting that you both mention sprinklers as a lot of houses burn down from the inside out, which is why people say they explode. It is really just the roof collapsing which tends to look like an explosion from outside. The furniture (especially synthetic materials) ignites via radiant heat through glass windows and doors in a bushfire. Also burning embers tend to get blown into roof cavities (or under floors) and ignite dry pre-heated timbers.

    Not sure how good sprinklers will be in practice though? There are so many things that can go wrong with such a system. I have sprinklers (outside) here and they have their own power and water supply plus they get regular testing, however they are only a nice to have sort of thing and not the main fire defense for the house. The electric pump is also protected by a steel radiant heat shield and rock wall. Visitors over summer always get blasted by them which is a lot of fun for everyone.

    I was in the local volunteer fire brigade here for a few years and they gave me a real wake up call by letting me know that in no uncertain terms I and my neighbours were on their own during a serious blaze. So I take the bushfire threat very seriously. Unfortunately, after three wet winters here most people have forgotten though.

    Yeah, I’ve read about the southern Californian burns. Unfortunately for them, the Australian government many years ago donated hundreds of thousands of eucalyptus seedlings which hybridise readily and have now established themselves in those hills. Even here, if the leaves and timber are wet and green, it only takes a hot enough fire to get them to readily burn, but in a drought… Yikes.

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