Friday, 26 September 2008

Off To Market

We reached a point the other day at the Flood Street Farmlet. A special point, where we realised were faced with spending the rest of our lives finishing up all of the odd jobs and changing things here and there, to get it just right. We could see that we would potentially carry on in that fashion for quite a while to come. We seemed to be procrastinating over putting the place on the market.

We're unprepared, very unprepared for moving, but then, we've never really been prepared before, and we've moved a fair bit. The DW put her foot down and said she wanted the place on the market, wanted to be off on our next adventure. I "ummed" and even "aarghed". I said "what about if we just get job X done?" ... "and then perhaps job Y?", and it was pointed out that this was why we were never going to put the place on the market if we did not do it straight away.

I like to finish (some) things. The problem is that a home, especially the unusual kind of home that also includes food production elements, is an ongoing, life-long project. It never stops growing and changing, so the bar for "complete" was always going to be creeping off into the future. Each job done was seen in terms of better saleability (well, sort of, I've always enjoyed changing things around, even in rental properties), but they would only reveal more jobs needing completion that also affected the perfectness of the place (let me tell you it's far from perfect!) I needed to accept that it would never be perfect, and that it needed to go "as-is".

And so we made the call and the agent has been for a tour. He tells us it's a challenge. Not because the place is bad, mind you, just because it is relatively unique, given that it's a big house on a big block in a small village, with the orchard, berry patch, vege gardens and poultry houses. It's a lifestyle in a package, but that in turn somewhat limits it's appeal to only those within the demographic to which that lifestyle appeals.

Sure, it could sell to anyone, but the value of the changes made over the last few years would not be apparent or worth anything to such an "anyone", which is where the challenge lies. The "anyone" might see all the changes as needing a bulldozer to make the block suitable for something as horrendous as subdivision.

Within a fortnight or two the contract will be drawn up, and we'll be able to go on the market. We've got that long to finish off a few jobs, and transport a lot of our resource piles away to neaten the place up. And a lot of mowing to be done. And, a lot of hoping, for we sincerely hope that someone with similar ideas to ourselves comes along and takes up the Flood Street Farmlet challenge.

Given the current economic climate I doubt we will be able to be choosy. "So you plan to bulldoze it eh? Can't sell it to you then, sorry!", sounds all nice and idealistic, but when it comes down to it, our resources are currently spread thin, and we really need to concentrate them again so we can get moving on the new place. Time and money spent on this place would be so much better spent on our new block. It's up to the next people taking this place on to put their stamp on it, and much more stamping on our part will only make it harder for them ;-)

Friday, 12 September 2008

Global Approach To Emissions

The debate in Australia over carbon emissions and what we should do about them seems to have devolved largely into a conflict around the facts that we are a small nation, with a small population, and anything we do will have little effect on the overall outcomes. If the big nations like China, India and the US are not on board, any effort we make will be swamped. This is the core of the argument against action. A lot of sensible voices are pointing out myriad reasons why we should act anyway, but those messages don't carry much weight with the people who hold the purse strings.

In reading through some commentary on the Garnaut report this morning it occurred to me that the solution is actually rather simple, though perhaps simplisticly so I do admit. Still, simple ideas are often the best!

We take our internal action, putting in place an emissions tax scheme, rather than trading scheme. We want a penalty, direct, to the point, no mincing words and actions. A tax is a direct way of reducing production and consumption of emissions. It does not allow for fudging and swapping, it gives no favouritism, and like the Terminator, it never sleeps and it never gives up. The dirty coal fired power plant needs to know it's doing the wrong thing, not think that it needs to be a bit more clever in how it trades it's emissions. Trading schemes are another layer of distraction and obscufation, another game for peole with money to play, at the expense of the masses.

Following that action we put in place a series of external actions aimed squarely at those nations that have chosen not to take action. Every import from a country that isn't doing something about climate change is taxed in proportion for the full measure of the emissions it is producing, similarly every export to that country is taxed to make up the shortfall from it's lack of action.

This sends an immediate and undeniable message to the other nation, as well as creating a market signal within the local economy. We are encouraged by prices to shop locally, to manufacture and produce locally. At the global level we are encouraged to trade with nations who have taken steps to deal with emissions, in preference to those who have not.

If the "Made in China" plastic toy in the MacDonalds happy meal is now costing $5 or more thanks to the carbon taxes we are putting in place on them they will swiftly disappear from the meals. Similarly, every tonne of coal sent overseas would need a tax applied that was proportionate to the damage it will do when burned. If they're not paying the tax internally, then they're paying it to the supplier.

No country, and no transaction with a country should be immune, even down to currency exchanges. If a country does not want to do something about it's emissions, it's up to the rest of the global economy to do something for it, to force it's hand in the matter.

In addition to the basic signal, that unless they wish to play climate-change ball their economy will be wound back by external forces, it immediately provides an imperative to implement a carbon tax within their own borders. I know I'd rather have the tax money working in our own economy than someone else's.

It should be mandated that the tax revenue be spent on non-polluting energy projects, and on green manufacturing, housing and transport. It's there to help fund the shift to the new economy. Such actions would hurt, both at home and abroad, but either way we are going to go through a period of pain before we come out the other side. Better a period of swift adjustment than a drawn out and painful alteration under the weight of a changed climate. Better to siphon the funds from the damaging elements of the global economy to support the healing and renewing elements.

Our greatest global challenge at the moment with respect to top-down action is overcoming the inertia and disillusionment created by inaction within the giants of the global economy. If every smaller nation on Earth with a desire to get working on the problem signed on to a treaty to enact such penalties then the recalcitrent nations would quickly realise they'd better get moving to catch up with the bandwagon. If states and towns did it within the borders of countries then it sends a notice to the wider nation.

We cannot nicely ask the powers that be to care for the Earth, we already know they wont listen. They will do as much as they need to do to mollify, and not a whit more. We need to insist that they do it, and if they don't we need to do it for them. The single greatest hurdle at the moment is that the people who can take such high level actions are very unwilling to do so. They're more interested in preserving the economy in it's current state.

It's like a fruit tree, some years you prune a little, other years you need to be more drastic and prune out some of the larger limbs, otherwise future fruiting is going to be seriously compromised or even non-existent. It's time now for the saw rather than the secateurs.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Projects Update

First off, the project for turning the small metal drums into an ash processing facility was something of a failure. The glorified seive was way too small to process enough ash rapidly, and there were a few technical issues with the way it was set up.

All is not lost though. I found a nice solid fine sieve at the rubbish dump a few years back, that I stuck on legs and put a funnel under. I used it for sieving sand and earthy materials for making seed raising and cutting mixes. The DW was threatening to dump another load of ashes up the back, along with the valuable cargo of charcoal, so I quickly knocked up a second sieve to sit on top of the first, with a coarser mesh. The coarse sieve captures the large chunks of charcoal suitable for the forge. The lower one gets all the smaller bits that can go into potting mixes and into the ground as an agri-char or bio-char, and the ash goes into the funnel and then into a bucket. For now the ashes are being stored in a feed bag in the shed. I'll be taking a pH reading of the soil around the place and over at the new block to see where it might be most profitably applied.

Over the weekend before last I also constructed a new set of front steps for the house. The old ones were rusty red-painted steel steps, rather steep (yes, all two steps of them :-) ) with a big size difference between the different treads. The new ones are solid hardwood. I dipped into the bounty from the cattle yards I salvaged a few months ago and put them together. They've had their final coats of linseed oil applied and have been installed.

We've also discovered the joy of limestone toppings. Extremely cheap at about $28/cubic metre, they set like concrete (almost) and look good enough to walk on. We're going to turn all the muddy walking tracks into a decent surface. If only we'd tackled it before we started planning on selling the place!

Things are looking really good in the glasshouse, many of the cuttings have taken, even a few of the plum tree cuttings are looking like they might make it through. Still not sure about the apples though. They're normally a few weeks behind the plums, so I won't get an idea of whether they're going to make it for a bit. It's not all rosy though, the tallow tree cuttings have browned off, I'm thinking due to the extra heat and the fact that they had not yet formed sufficient roots. I've got my fingers crossed, as the tree up the back often gets hit by frost and loses it's leaves, and then comes back a few weeks later, so the cuttings may be as resilient.

Out at the new block, I've got a couple of posts in for a new bit of boundary fence. The previous owner's sheep are making free with the land we've bought that falls outside the fences, so it's high time these commons were enclosed. More seriously, stage one is a small section that will create a sectioned off area for storing my resource (junk) pile, where the goats agisted on our land cannot get to it. We'd hate for them to get injured climbing over piles of steel with all sorts of sharp protrusions, so we need an area they cannot get to.

I was also looking at putting the sheds etc in this general area as well, though I've still got doubts about it being the ideal spot. It is close to the house, but it is also crammed into a corner against the boundary, limiting the options for future expansion. The trouble is that other areas close to the house are all down on the worst of the slope, making access tricky at best, or too far away from the house. A shed or three is not an easy or cheap thing to move, so a bit more thought is in order before we start setting plans in stone.