Using permaculture ethics & design principles to transform an old energy guzzling bungalow into a showcase of sustainable design. It's about energy cycling, building community, self-reliance,creatively using & reusing materials... all without spending heaps of money.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wind Farms - The real story

Principle 5: Use and value renewable resources and services

The local campaign to support the proposed Cherry Tree Wind Farm has taken a step forward with the publishing and distribution of this flier that I put together with the help of Leigh Ewbank from Friends of the Earth and the team at BEAM. There will be a letterbox drop in the local area and the flier will also be distributed throughout the region.

The flier has been put together in response to the misinformation that is being regurgitated by local anti-wind groups. One of the latestet claims of which is that Wind Farms should not be placed in high risk fire areas as they can start fires. This comes after news of a grass fire near the turbine site a couple of weeks ago, which (from what I've heard) was caused by a lightening strike to a tree.

On investigation further I discovered that lightening strike is the main cause of bush fires. The Wind Energy Fact sheet produced by the NSW state government concludes that fire risk at wind farms is very low:
Wind farms can be struck by lightning, just like tall buildings, but they are equipped with comprehensive lightning protection systems that transfer high voltages and currents safely to the ground.
The fire risk is very low. The flammable parts are located high above the ground, away from vegetation and high voltage connections are underground.
Lightening would in fact be more likely to strike a turbine than a tree, reducing the risk of lightening causing a fire nearby.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A well hidden tree house

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

I've been having fun transforming this 'weedy' tree into an adventure playground, a nice shady space for the kids to play in during summer. I built a platform a bit over a year ago, after prunning the tree heavily, the space evolves as the tree continues to grow. I experimented with bending the branches over to form a dome like space within the tree canopy, which would eventually grow leaves to hide the inhabitants. It has turned out better than I could have hoped.

Left to grow after heavy pruning last year, the young branches were tied down in winter to form a dome - shown here as a work in progress.

Inside, there is enough room for an adult to stand up and a few kids to cook up a storm.

Six months later, the canopy encloses the dome giving Kai and Sen a shady place to eat home grown carrots.

Sen and Kai watch the world go by from the tree house.

All aboard the treehouse! Sen uses a bicycle wheel to steer while Kai shares his observations with Mum.
The space is a big attraction for visiting kids. The 'clam' pool is filled nearby and is well shaded before the afternoon sun kicks in, a great relief for those really hot days. "Watch out below" is the call as the bucket is lowered using a pulley to the sandpit for refilling. The kids often cook dinner and make cups of tea for us in the treehouse using all sorts of wierd and wonderful ingredients. The chickens nearby get plenty of attention, the kids can watch them nest, collect eggs and make sure that they have plenty of food and water.

Our adventure playground with swing, tree house (now well hidden), spash pool and sand pit below. Chickens to the left.

In some related news I found out the name of the tree. I'm pretty sure it's a Box Elder, an invasive species here in Victoria (Australia). In investigation the uses for the tree I discovered that it can be tapped for maple syrup.
"Maple" syrup can also be made from the sap of boxelder, which technically is a maple (it belongs to the maple genus), but boxelder sap should not normally be combined with sap from other maples. Boxelder syrup can have a heavy, almost sorghum-like flavor that may be perceived as somewhat bitter compared to syrup made from other maples. Good boxelder syrup, however, is quite palatable, and is produced and marketed in parts of North America where other maples are not common. from Ohio State University
 This may lead to some more experimenting down the track. There are plenty of these trees in the area, none of which are being tapped.

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