Monday, July 20, 2009

Fires Aftermath

It’s now 5 months since Black Saturday, but it still seems like a bad dream. It is hard getting used to the blackened trunks, bare branches and a cooked landscape. Every time we return home, a sense of sadness arises within us when the burnt forest comes into view. This feeling is only partially offset by the gradual rebirth of our environment.

Recovery of bush/animals
The tenacity of Australia’s forests is amazing. The tree ferns and grass trees were sending out new shoots within a couple of weeks and the green really stands out against the black backdrop. Many of the eucalypts are now sending out side-shoots, with some clothed in green shoots from top to bottom. Of course there are many that will never recover and will stand for years like black sentinels reminding us of Black Saturday. The forest floor is gradually turning green with a carpet of mosses and young shoots starting to hide the ash.

Amazingly some of the wildlife managed to survive, but they are not out of the woods yet (pun intended). They survived the fire, but can they survive the loss of habitat and food source? We are doing our best to help by doing regular food drops of approved food around our place – hopefully it will get them through. So far we have seen a few wombats, a couple of echidnas, one baby snake, a small mob of kangaroos, a handful of wallabies and two lyrebirds.

Odd stuff
Many people have commented that at least we now have tons of firewood. Strangely this is true for next year and into the future, but the bulk of blackened wood on the ground is green- that’s why it didn’t burn during the fires. Any dry wood (including a few piles we were saving for future firewood) burnt very well when the fires arrived. Fortunately we managed to locate enough seasoned wood to get us through this winter, but many other people may have found it more difficult.

Flue Cleaning
One consequence of using wood stoves/heaters is the need to keep the flue clean. We have aimed to do this annually, but for various reasons have left this messy job for two years. So in May we donned our overalls, dragged out the flue brush, climbed onto the roof and gave the flue a brushing. We were pleasantly surprised by the relatively small amount of soot that dropped down. Our guess is that due to the very dry nature of the wood we use (usually it’s been seasoned for 2 years or more), it burns very cleanly leaving little residue behind. From now on we’ll clean out the flues before winter every odd numbered year.

Wood Fired Appliances
Winter has well and truly arrived and with that, the need for heating. Over recent years wood has received much “bad press” as a use for fuel. In the suburbs a poorly operated system or one not using dry fuel can cause discomfort for neighbours, but in rural areas there are many advantages over other fuels.
The Australian Greenhouse Office, in their brochure "Global Warming Cool It!" lists the following Greenhouse gases (pollution) per unit of heat
• “Natural gas produces 0.31 kg.
• LPG gas produces 0.34 kg.
• Electricity Aust. Average 1.00 kg...
• Wood produces 0.00 kg.”

The article continues: "Carbon dioxide from burning wood is not counted, as wood is a renewable resource: a natural cycle exists in which carbon is captured by growing trees, then released by burning or decaying and again captured by growing trees." Our energy utilities would have us believe that are at the forefront of environmental protection. The truth is fossil fuels are ruining the environment and our health........ This site also outlines some serious health dangers related to the use of gas fuelled heaters. See for more information.

Wood is the perfect fuel if you are replanting trees to replace the wood you use.


lyrebird said...

your blog is such an inspiration to so many people. i read with great sadness of the fire damage to your beautiful property. i read with optimism of your determination to continue, and was moved by the response of all your friends. i would like to link to your blog from ours if you don't mind. we are about to embark on a huge permaculture quest with the purchase of 40 acres on the midnorth coast of nsw. big ideas and aspirations, and small budget...our blog recording this venture is
best of luck with the rebuilding, kate

Marie Antoinette said...

Hi Andrew and Heather. I'm heartened to read about the renewal happening at your place after the fires. Would you like some more Amaranth seed to plant this spring? I assume your last crop was burnt out.

Andrew and Heather said...

Thanks for your comments Lyrebird. Yes, you are welcome to link to our blog, and if it's ok we'll link to yours. We've already had a look at your bobo creek blog and can see why you're so excited. The site looks beautiful and full of potential. We're already looking forward to the next page in your adventure.

Thankyou for the offer of more amaranth Michelle. Although practically all our bushland was burnt to a crisp, we were able to keep the flames back from our vegetable gardens and orchard. The only plants we lost were ones that died of neglect during the 2 weeks we were putting out spotfires.
We harvested just over 1 kg of amaranth seed. We've put some aside for planting this year and have been enjoying the rest in a variety of ways eg. in LSA which is now LASA (Linseed, Amaranth, sunflower & Almond), in Dukkah and adding it to soups. Your blog was very helpful in working out how to harvest the seed.
Heather and Andrew

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