The Journey

PLACE: Greenman Orchards

CIRCUMSTANCE: Dam

We had the dam dug and my brother totally insulted us by saying, ‘That’s just a ditch.’ Not nice after spending A LOT of money. Maybe he isn’t aware that new dams don’t come filled with water and you have to wait for the rain…

The dam will hold about six mega litres but we have a licence for ten. It’s a kidney shape and the wall is a lot bigger than we anticipated. Levels are deceiving. It’s not in the exact location that we wanted it either; it could have been another 20 metres further up the paddock, but it can’t be changed now. It’s so annoying when people don’t listen to what you want and do it their own way.

The dam digger took ages to complete it, doing it in stages, and this really annoyed Kenny as he likes people to finish what they start before they go on to do another job. Kenny started to get anxious too, as we had trees to put in and they were starting to move (come out in leaf with the warmer weather).

We planted some willows and lots of poplars for wind breaks. The poplars are a Tasmanian variety that does not sucker. Spring is here and they are now coming out in leaf.

Advertisements

PLACE: Greenman Orchards

CIRCUMSTANCE: Back again

Well it’s been ages since my last blog. Sorry about that. A lot has been happening…

I went to the west coast of Tassie for work and decided it was WAY too far to be commuting back and forth on a regular basis, especially with the weather (ice and snow on the roads), so I resigned from that position and returned. And as we still have to eat, I resumed relief work.

Going Solar – that has been an experience and a half. I wish we had done our homework a bit better. A lot better! We made the mistake of choosing a company that did not have experience doing stand-alone systems – but he didn’t tell us that! We deduced it as we went along until finally Kenny asked the guy one day, ‘Haven’t done a lot of these, have you?’ and he replied, ‘Ahhh, no.’

The long and the short of it is that’s it’s a long story, but we had to upgrade the inverter, we are still waiting to get more panels and we have had to get the electrician back numerous times to sort things out. He even had the solar panels set on LOW! We didn’t even know there was a setting on the panels, but when they weren’t charging. Well, that was another re-visit and on the roof to check. Plus, he did not have the generator wired in to come on automatically as it was supposed to do, so we were turning it on every time we wanted power! And then, back out to turn it off just before we went to bed. The electrician finally wired it in to come on auto, and it’s supposed to go off once it reaches a certain charge, but that hasn’t been happening. The ongoing story…

PLACE: Southern Tasmania

CIRCUMSTANCE: A couple of small progressions

Today we got the reply from the dam contractor and we are happy to report that he can indeed work within our budget – yay!!! Having said that…our budget has gone up… After some thought, we concluded that our initial idea of what a dam – or a hole in the ground – might cost was way off target. Well, you live and learn. The contractor also said that working by the hour might be cheaper, so this one is not settled yet. Moreover, the water consultant man is onto us again and needs to come out and make another assessment because even if we have a teeny-weeny bit of a ‘wall’ – it’s a dam.

Second progression of the day is that finally – after about six weeks – the wood heater installer came to see us. One of the first things we did on arrival, as I have reported, is to go ‘shopping’ for items to make life in a shed rather more comfortable. So off we trotted looking at wood heaters. Not the choice we expected to have in Tasmania but there was a satisfactory selection. Well, we chose a wood heater – highly effective and cost efficient with an endless supply of pick-your-own-up-off-the-ground wood – but we would not commit to buy until we had a definite price on the installation, and that meant someone had to come to the site and have a look. It is not your typical house installation and there are things to consider such as the height of the roof and the velocity of the wind. Try telling that to someone who just wants to make the deal. No, we insist: we want the installer to see the job first and give a quote! So after waiting about six weeks, I get a phone call from the installer and he comes to the site. And just as well too because we are going to need extra flue and he will have to secure the flue to the roof. It’s really nice when you get someone who knows what they’re talking about. Now we will wait for the proper quote.

Oh, and guess what – you won’t believe the irony of this – the wood heater we have chosen was made in Western Australia! Like they need heat there! We so thought we’d find a Tasmanian-made wood heater. Now there’s a manufacturing opportunity for someone.

TIME: Mid-February 2016

PLACE: Southern Tasmania

CIRCUMSTANCE: Damn!

We just got some bad news about the dam. We got the quote via email and wow! someone must have told the guy we were made of money! It is way too much. Greenman is feeling sick. At this cost, it’s a real blow to our plans; we need water storage from which to irrigate. I suggest that maybe a dam half the size would cost half as much and that maybe if we told the contractor what our budget was he could do something within it. Of course, a tank is always an option but not nearly so aesthetic. But that alternative isn’t cheap either. We decide to have the conversation about the budget and await the reply.

TIME: Mid-February 2016sunset

PLACE: Southern Tasmania

CIRCUMSTANCE: Solar power & going off-grid

For the last few years we have been talking about sustainability and how it relates to our consumption of all resources, energy use and environmental management and when the government was giving rebates for solar energy installations and rebates for feeding into the grid, we thought that would be the way to go, have the best of both worlds, so to speak. However, now there are no or minimal rebates and feeding into the grid has not been such a pay-off as first thought. My own parents are a case in point. They invested a huge sum to get solar energy and tap into the grid and since installation they have seen the rebate go down. Nevertheless, the money they spent has paid for itself in money not paid to power companies. Now that’s a win!

When we bought the property we knew that getting connected to the main grid would have been expensive indeed because of the distance from the road to the building envelope. We considered both solar and wind power, and even a combination of both. Finally our decision was to go off-grid altogether and, for the time being, just go solar. There may come a time in the future when wind power may be a significant option, especially since our location has plenty of it.

Since our decision to go completely off-grid and before making the permanent move to Tasmania, our neighbour approached us about sharing the cost of getting power onto the properties. We said no. His property is behind us and his elevation greater; the cost of getting traditional power to that site – nightmarish. Initially we had concerns about the appearance of the power poles, but thankfully they are unobtrusive.

We did our research and are happy to say that solar power is a responsible choice. It is also making us consider how we use power. For instance, appliances like ovens, cooktops, clothes dryers and smaller electrical kitchen ‘gadgets’ all have a substantial draw on power. We have decided to go for gas where possible; gas hot water and all-gas range (and there are not a lot of options in the all-gas range especially since the introduction of the popular combination of gas hotplates and electric oven). We are really excited about choosing solar and reducing our energy consumption.

TIME: Week 5, February 2016Planting the poplar wind break

PLACE: Cider Isle

CIRCUMSTANCE: Fencing for vines

We meet on site with a young man who is a fencing contractor and he’s had experience doing fencing for vineyards. We go to the area we are going to start with and tell him what we want. But when can you do it? Not till March.

In the meantime, windbreaks can be planted. Greenman gets a good deal on poplars and starts a line of them. They’re just little guys at the moment, but with water and protection from the jimbos (little wallabies) they will soon grow.