The Eagle has landed…….

25 09 2015

Are those front wheels touching the ground?

Are those front wheels touching the ground?

Made it.  My friend Richard and I drove ute II all the way from Brisbane to Geeveston in one piece, joining ute I which has patiently been waiting for five months for my return to Tasmania. The trip didn’t exactly start off on the right foot; when I bought ute II it appeared to have four brand new tyres, a plus I thought. When I got it home, however, I discovered that whilst they had close to 100% tread, they were in fact 5 years old. With a full load and cruising at 90km/h, by the time I’d done the 140km to Brisbane, the driver’s rear tyre had failed.  $440 and four new tyres later, we were off, late. Which meant we were also late at Claire’s place in Newcastle, especially as I miscalculated our fuel consumption just north of there, and ran out of fuel….. Luckily the NRMA rescued us in no time flat, and we made it in time to devour my daughter’s delicious vegetarian curry.

Our next stop was Shepparton in Victoria where Richard’s sister lives. I left him there for a day while I caught up with my favourite niece in Melbourne. While there I picked up the two bidets I bought for a song on eBay, plus a couple of hand basins and several mixer taps that were going for a third of the price of Bunnings’! My many thanks to Brendon who is storing the stuff while I wait to return to the mainland to pick up my AGA in Adelaide.

Richard on the Spirit of Tasmania

Richard on the Spirit of Tasmania

The ferry trip across Bass Strait was uneventful – I can hardly believe I’ve now had two perfectly smooth crossings. The newly installed wifi on the ferry didn’t seem to work, or perhaps it was overloaded from all the other passengers having a go too. I was hoping to stay in touch with this poor old neglected blog while at sea, but there you go…..

On the other side of the strait we stayed with Kate (this time it was Geoff who missed out on a visit!). I ordered a pair of Kate’s glorious hand made ear rings for my dear other half who missed out on a birthday present due to all the chaos caused by the sale of Mon Abri. They were definitely worth waiting for…..

It doesn’t take long to cross Tasmania, fortunately, and we were soon in Geeveston to unload.

Richard and I soon undertook the task of making the old apple shed livable by rejigging the wiring from just one double power point to run everything, to several, thus removing miles of extension cords and power boards galore that I seriously think were not safe.

I then bought $150 worth of locally milled studs to build the sound proof/insulated and windowless ‘cell’ I’m going to call home while I wait for all the approvals etc for our next Abri to come to fruition….. Richard’s hard work here was priceless. Without him, I may well be struggling to finish it still! But finished it is, and just in time for Glenda’s current visit to work out exactly where the house will be built. It still needs some carpet remnants to be laid over the cracks in the floor where cold air is still intruding, but really, it’s quite an improvement…

Kitchen area cleaned up and reorganised

Kitchen area cleaned up and reorganised

The adventure has begun, and my main problem is working out where to start.  There really is so much to do…..

As far as the weather goes, it’s only cold at night, and now I have a room to sleep in, it’s not even an issue. Daytime temperatures, even when they barely reach two digits, suit me fine for working. I’m really not missing Queensland.

Glenda’s organised a dinner tonight with all our friends and neighbours to celebrate my arrival, today’s another glorious day in paradise with the sun shining brightly, what else would one wish for?

My next big project is returning to the mainland and driving to Adelaide for my AGA. Not sure I’m looking forward to that, but it has to be done.

Watch this space.

Deflationary Collapse Ahead?

28 08 2015

Back at the Noosa library using their lightning fast internet. Not having a proper base is tedious sometimes.

While everyone on the media is spruiking the end of last week’s crisis crisis (hah!), Gail Tverberg has published a stupendous article on her blog titled Deflationary Collapse Ahead? Perhaps most of you have already read it, but I found it interesting that she’s getting more and more pessimistic with every post…..

My main take away from this article are:

  1. The big thing that is happening is that the world financial system is likely to collapse. Back in 2008, the world financial system almost collapsed. This time, our chances of avoiding collapse are very slim.

  2. Without the financial system, pretty much nothing else works: the oil extraction system, the electricity delivery system, the pension system, the ability of the stock market to hold its value. The change we are encountering is similar to losing the operating system on a computer, or unplugging a refrigerator from the wall.

  3. We don’t know how fast things will unravel, but things are likely to be quite different in as short a time as a year. World financial leaders are likely to “pull out the stops,” trying to keep things together. A big part of our problem is too much debt. This is hard to fix, because reducing debt reduces demand and makes commodity prices fall further. With low prices, production of commodities is likely to fall. For example, food production using fossil fuel inputs is likely to greatly decline over time, as is oil, gas, and coal production.

  4. The electricity system, as delivered by the grid, is likely to fail in approximately the same timeframe as our oil-based system. Nothing will fail overnight, but it seems highly unlikely that electricity will outlast oil by more than a year or two. All systems are dependent on the financial system. If the oil system cannot pay its workers and get replacement parts because of a collapse in the financial system, the same is likely to be true of the electrical grid system.

  5. Our economy is a self-organized networked system that continuously dissipates energy, known in physics as a dissipative structureOther examples of dissipative structures include all plants and animals (including humans) and hurricanes. All of these grow from small beginnings, gradually plateau in size, and eventually collapse and die. We know of a huge number of prior civilizations that have collapsed. This appears to have happened when the return on human labor has fallen too low. This is much like the after-tax wages of non-elite workers falling too low. Wages reflect not only the workers’ own energy (gained from eating food), but any supplemental energy used, such as from draft animals, wind-powered boats, or electricity. Falling median wages, especially of young people, are one of the indications that our economy is headed toward collapse, just like the other economies.

  6. The reason that collapse happens quickly has to do with debt and derivatives. Our networked economy requires debt in order to extract fossil fuels from the ground and to create renewable energy sources, for several reasons: (a) Producers don’t have to save up as much money in advance, (b) Middle-men making products that use energy products (such cars and refrigerators) can “finance” their factories, so they don’t have to save up as much, (c) Consumers can afford to buy “big-ticket” items like homes and cars, with the use of plans that allow monthly payments, so they don’t have to save up as much, and (d) Most importantly, debt helps raise the price of commodities of all sorts (including oil and electricity), because it allows more customers to afford products that use them. The problem as the economy slows, and as we add more and more debt, is that eventually debt collapses. This happens because the economy fails to grow enough to allow the economy to generate sufficient goods and services to keep the system going–that is, pay adequate wages, even to non-elite workers; pay growing government and corporate overhead; and repay debt with interest, all at the same time.

We don’t know how fast things will unravel, but things are likely to be quite different in as short a time as a year…..

Needless to say, that one line blew me away. Even though I’m well aware of how badly things are going, I still scare myself silly reading this stuff.

Figure 2. Figure from Hubbert's 1956 paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.

Then we have the above chart, which for me was the gotcha moment of my understanding of limits… that shaded area under the spike represents all the fossil energy ever used since the beginning of the industrial revolution to perhaps 20 or so years from now.  The area of the rectangular block to the right of the spike is what idiots who believe in unending growth think will happen with ‘innovation and technology’.  Possibly dozens of times the total amount of energy we extracted from coal, oil, and gas. The most stupendous energy sources we’ve ever had (and never will have again). Truly, fantasy land…

I have twelve months to get my act together at Mon Abri MkII, but literally no one I know believes a word of it or does anything about it. Some are even doing everything the wrong way and exposing themselves to losing everything….

Further reading that may interest you all too is Tom Murphy’s latest report on his EV experiment. Titled My Chicken of an EV, Tom clearly shows why he believes batteries will disappoint….

From the data, I see that the battery capacity is at about 85% of its original condition. While extrapolation is highly risky, it would seem that I can expect zero capacity on the scale of six years, based on its accelerating decline. At this point, we have put about 500 full-cycle-equivalent charges on the battery in about 700 charge events (just shy of one per day, typically about 70% depth). So perhaps it’s not surprising: few batteries can withstand more than 1–2000 charge cycles before giving out. – See more at:

Take Away

While obligated to point out the financials, I am the last to feel enslaved by a strict dollars-and-cents analysis. There are other reasons to go for an EV: reduced reliance on petroleum, solar charge capability, quiet, efficient, support of a nascent technology, etc. For me, energy is a hobby. I buy an expensive car and expensive solar batteries because I want to learn more about their pros and cons. In part, I am glad that I can export what I learn to the people. Most folks do not have the financial or technical capabilities to look into possibly-hyped technologies and report, free of financial agenda.

I am not yet personally convinced that we will see an EV revolution. Gasoline price fluctuations are a short-term killer of long-term planning. Batteries still do, and likely always will, disappoint. I am learning similar lessons on the nickel-iron battery front. We may have to face the fact that gasoline has been the ultimate transportation fuel, and the economists’ picture of universal substitutability may not apply. If EVs can never really outperform gasoline in cost, ease/simplicity, convenience, and robustness—and if they remain expensive to own and maintain, from where will the prosperity derive for us to all have such marvelous toys?

Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy my EV and my chickens while they last, as a lifestyle choice. The cost per egg or cost per mile certainly do not justify them. So we need to be satisfied by other reasons.

Tom is apparently working on another report on the NiFe batteries I’m hoping to install in Geeveston, and he has prepared all his readers for some more disappointment. Hopefully, he hasn’t understood exactly how they are meant to be used, so watch this space.

John Doyle, if you read this, how do I get in touch with you?

Eight more sleeps, and I’m off into the Tasmanian sunset.

It’s all happening…..

25 08 2015

Things have been quiet on the DTM front since moving out of Mon Abri.  Having inherited my mother’s smart phone, I have actually mastered (well, kind of…) the art of mobile internet, but I draw the line at writing blog posts on those small screens.  We are still waiting for an internet connection at my MiL’s place, and hopefully it will arrive before I leave for Tasmania on the 5th of September, and I am typing this at the Noosa Library where the net is actually very fast.

deadbullIt looks like we sold just in time and getting out of debt when we did was a bonus.  But now I worry our money might devalue before I have a chance to spend it all. It certainly looks like the Chinese bull has been slain, and the red ink is flowing – or is that red LED’s in this new modern world of algorithmic trading by digital means? Our treasurer is lying through his teeth – as usual – telling the world and anyone stupid enough to listen, that ‘the fundamentals’ are just fine, when in fact they are thoroughly broken.  Even the young lady making market announcements on ABC TV’s morning news admitted it was her job to say this was a mere correction and not a crash…..  I kid you not!

I even heard some ‘expert’ pronounce that China’s official growth  figures of 7% were way overblown, and were more likely to be between 0 and 4%.  Zero?  Yep, that’s what she said….

Chinese state and private debt currently total about 300% of GDP. If you think that the GDP number they publish is too high, the debt percentage goes even higher. China has a lot of debt any way you look at it, and much of it is dollar-denominated, hence the recent devaluation of their currency which seems to have triggered this current crash.

The best article I have read about this whole affair came from The Automatic Earth:

Central banks will come up with more, much more, ‘stimulus’, but what China teaches us today is that we’re woefully close to the moment when central banks will lose the faith and trust of everyone. After injecting tens of billions of dollars in markets, which thereby ceased to function, the global economy is in a bigger mess than it was prior to QE. The whole thing is one big bubble now, and we know what invariably happens to those.

More QE is not an answer. And there is no other answer left either. Those tens of trillions will need to vanish from the global economy before any market can be returned to a functioning one, and by that time of course asset prices will be fraction of what they are now. It may not happen today, but that doesn’t matter: what’s important to know is that it WILL happen.

And if you keep being out there trying to outsmart a non-functioning market, you’ll get burned as badly as the millions of Chinese grandmas who already lost 20%+ so far just this month. And that’s just on their share holdings; Chinese property ‘markets’ will be at least as badly burned.

 nails it here in my opinion…..

China’s leaders, and its people, have walked eyes wide open into an ugly albeit nigh perfect trap. They’ve all started to believe that borrowing more could make them richer. Outstanding credit across the entire society has reached idiotic proportions. We can get somewhat of a glance at what levels debt have reached in Steve Keen’s Is This The Great Crash Of China?, in which he argues that a crash is inevitable, simply given those levels.


The main advice we’ve always given with regards to debt deleveraging stands: get out of debt.

Meanwhile, the western financial press, which has been reporting on non-functioning markets for years as if they actually were still functioning, is worrying about a potential Fed rate hike, telling its readers and listeners that the US central bank ‘looks set to make a dangerous mistake’. But the real ‘mistake’ was made a long time ago.

And then there’s oil…….  trading at under $38 as I type.  Who would have believed this a couple of years ago?  And petrol is still as dear as it was when oil hit $147 in 2008.  I guess if the oil companies can’t make a profit at the front end, they have to recoup their losses at the bowser….

On a completely different tack, I have been working on Mon Abri MkII, and have probably come up with a final design, subject to Glenda’s approval……  I’ve even made a model of it:


The rear and internal walls will all be made of core filled concrete blocks for thermal mass. I expect that the rear wall – which is 3.2m high – will be backfilled with as much as 2.5m of earth moved from cutting the flat pad for the slab floor……

The ‘missing bits’ at the front (North facing side) are literally all double glazing, and I may even triple glaze the bits in the peak that light the triangular wedge at the back. Starting in the middle, which is the living space, the low wall is under the kitchen windows.  The blank wall is the pantry/store room which is a replica of the one I built in Cooran, complete with hot water storage tank; the ‘new AGA’ will be against the right hand wall of this room, connected to the hot water tank. To the left of that is a bathroom, and to the left of that will be a bedroom.  The other end of the house is a mirror image, sans the pantry….

With all that thermal mass and heavy insulation, I expect this house to never drop below 18 degrees, even when it snows outside, as it would have done recently when Tasmania experienced low level snow three times in a fortnight!

Now all I need is a draftsman to finalise my plans……….  any takers?

Eleven more sleeps, and I’m off to the deep South…… and not too late either, it’s already getting almost too warm for me already up here in the sub tropics.

More Climate Change bad news…..

17 08 2015

Mark Cochrane

Mark Cochrane

Sorry to be so long away but I’ve been on the road one way or another for 7 of the last 8 weeks, most recently in Indonesia on the islands of Java and Sumatra. One of the main foci of my research these days is on the climate and land use interactions behind the peat fires that plague the region. Ever since the major El Nino of 1997-98 peat fires in Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) and Riau and Jambi provinces on Sumatra have become a near annual occurrence with the situation being simply a matter of degree.

The situation is another self-inflicted ecological disaster that is man-made. Peat swamp forests were cleared to grow massive quantities of oil palm, and rice in a madcap clearance of 1,000,000 ha in the case of Kalimantan. The forests sat over several meters of peat that had been laid down over more than 20,000 years. In order to utilize these lands it wasn’t sufficient to clear the forests, the lands needed to be drained with thousands of kilometers of canals. Draining tropical peat lands is the equivalent of melting Arctic/boreal permafrost. It turns a sequestered pool of carbon into one that can be actively metabolized by microorganisms and also burned when dry enough. In short, they become another source of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. This is why Indonesia ranks 3rd in global emissions these days.

This is what Riau province looked like last year.


I just came from there, having been out with firefighters like the one shown. While things have calmed down for the moment, there are numerous peat fires currently smoldering across the region, having been burning for more than a month already. Once the fires go to ground in the peat it is nearly impossible to extinguish them. They tend to burn until the heavy rains of the wet season flood the lands. A few years earlier I was doing field work in Kalimantan when similar conditions of extensive burning and massive haze conditions covered the region. When we came out of the field, we were unable to leave the region because all planes were grounded for over a week. We eventually gambled on a long drive to the coast to escape the region instead.

The regional haze is a toxic mix of gases and particulates that cause thousands of illnesses and deaths. They reach beyond Indonesia and bedevil Singapore among other places.

I raise these points because these conditions are at their worst during El Nino events. At the end of the month we will ‘officially’ meet NOAA’s El Nino definition (I believe the Aussies already acknowledge the obvious). All models call for the strongest El Nino since 1997-98, with an 80% chance it will continue until at least the end of spring next year (Northern Hemisphere spring that is!). This is what global precipitation patterns are likely to look like in general for the next three months.

That big red blob of very dry conditions sits right on Indonesia. If I finally exit the two year bureaucratic quagmire I have been in, as now seems likely, I should be leading a field team testing emissions from the peat fires in Kalimantan come mid October. It should be interesting if unhealthy. Lest anyone think that science is nothing but sitting at a desk number crunching, the scientists and equipment I have coming in to do the sampling were most recently in Nepal on another project when the earthquake hit, dropping a building on their equipment but thankfully not them. As for me, during the 1997-98 El Nino I was over in that other dry blob that affects the Amazon standing in the midst of a 1,000 km2 forest fire that happened to burn through my plots while I was in them. Always get the data! Cochrane et al. 1999, Science.

I’ve won the jackpot…….

15 08 2015

Well…….  no, I haven’t won a couple of million bucks, but I have an AGA lined up for Geeveston.  And what a find…. sometimes your stars just all line up.  For no particular reason, I jumped on Gumtree again the other day to see if there were any AGAs for sale.  They occasionally come up, which is how I got the one I used to finish off the range residing in Mon Abri.  And there it was…. not any old AGA, but a four oven version, already converted to wood!  There was only one photo of it on the advert, and it looked great, so, having money to actually pay for it, I rang Melissa to get the info I needed, and the one other thing I wanted, a wet back, is attached to the stove.  She sent me more photos, and I made her an offer she could not refuse.  


It’s not perfect, as it turns out.  The firebox is cracked for one thing, and both dome lids have totally worn out chrome, probably from decades of overzealous cleaning.  Because it has to be dismantled (by a secret society AGA mechanic of course!) to be removed from its kitchen, replacing the firebox will not be a big deal, though it might cost a fair bit depending on which way I decide to attack the problem.

Another AGA saga will occur, as soon as I can manage to do a return trip from Geeveston to Adelaide where Melissa will store the dismantled behemoth for me to pick up with the ute.  I guesstimate that I can have it re erected in working order in Mon Abri MkII for maybe $5000, or less than half the cost of importing a refurbished one from the UK, so all that driving will hopefully be worth it, fingers crossed no other surprises sneak up on me post dismantling.




The moving out of Mon Abri was sad, traumatic, exhausting, and, for its new owners, their first night will be one to remember, for all the wrong reasons……  a freak storm (in August?  what climate change…..?) that had wind strong enough to drive rain horizontally under the back verandah far enough to fill the gumboots against the house, challenged the flashings to such an extent rain poured into the house all along the clerestory window line……  something that had never ever occurred before in ten years of us living there.  The panic in Scott and Amanda’s voice when they rang to inform me of their terrible experience was palpable, and me……..  well I was speechless.  Firstly, it really had never happened before, and for this to occur on their very first night was just gobsmacking.  All I could think of was how they were probably thinking we’d sold them a lemon and done a runner…..

I grieve for my house now……  leaks and all.  My mother in Law’s house is freezing in the morning (even though it must be a full five degrees warmer there than in Cooran), there is no AGA to make my coffee on, and the chlorinated water has to be boiled before drinking (or coffee making!) so awful is its taste after drinking tank water for all those years….  Her kitchen, after my beloved one in Cooran, is an abomination, the hot water coming out the tap isn’t even hot…. how does anyone live like this..?

My sheltered life has been shattered….. may the next few months go quickly so I can return to it!


6 08 2015

Originally posted on Inheritance:

By Inheritance 2015,

They call it ‘Urban Renewal.’ The politicians love it, developers love it, foreign investors love it, my average neighbour doesn’t really want to know about it, but I hate it. And here are a few reasons why…

Urban Renewal is the reason I have to sit in traffic for 25 minutes just to get from one side of my suburb to the other. By car.

Urban Renewal is the reason I have to stand on the edge of the road for 10 minutes and then play chicken to get from one side to the other.

Urban Renewal is why I am forced to look up at overbearing nondescript cheaply constructed boxes of up to 10 stories high in suburban growth ghettos with inadequate parking, natural lighting and open space. Meanwhile affordable blocks of land and perfectly good houses are being swallowed up and kids have to…

View original 819 more words

One week to go……

5 08 2015

One week.  That’s all that’s left of a thirteen year trek to sustainability, an experiment from which much was learned, soon to be implemented in the Tasmania Project.

The last three or so weeks have been a total whirlwind…..  As soon as we accepted the offer on Mon Abri, planning the final move hot on the heels of our first attempt last Easter was well underway.  But life has ways of throwing spanners in your wheels. Firstly, my mother suddenly died.  Aged 85 and riddled with cancer, no one was surprised, except for the final sudden and unbelievably quick and merciful end.  You can make yourself believe that you are ready for a life changing event like the death of a parent or a move of the proportions we are undertaking in the face of ‘knowing all the facts’, but finally, it’s still shocking.  No amount of pinching yourself when you wake up in the morning changes a thing.  Life’s like that.  The real irony was that she used to say once we’d move to Tasmania she’d never see us again….. now it’s we who will never see her again.

I’ve bought another ute.  Not just any ute, but almost exactly the same one Alex and I drove down to Tassie those few short months ago.  I paid a lot more than $200 for this one, but apart from giving it the same oil changes I gave the other, this vehicle is in unbelievably good order for its age, needing nothing done to it.

With four new tyres, a brand new ignition system, a new radiator, and a brand new windscreen that makes me realise how chipped all my last few cars’s windscreens were, this one drives like it’s just come out of the showroom.  I’ve deduced it must have hardly moved at all in the past five years, and is very very low mileage for its age.  I’m very confident it will treat me well on my next (and final) trek to Tassie.

The number of things that have ‘gone wrong’ though still amaze me when I think about them.  It started with the lock to our bedroom jamming in the door.  Then the transfer pump to the header tank packed up, tripping circuit breakers with every attempt to make it pump.  The motion sensor that automatically switches the light on in the pantry then decided to pack it in too, as did the CFL lamp in the laundry, now replaced with a new LED bulb.  As if that wasn’t enough, the battery in the rideon mower curled up its toes too…..  But it was the AGA’s shenanigans that put the icing on the cake as far as failures go.

I’ve spent some time lately with our buyers, ‘workshopping’ life in Cooran.  One of the things I had to teach them was starting the AGA and keeping it running.  What a disaster…….. smoke everywhere, even coming out of the ovens!  The flue was obviously blocked up, even though I had cleaned it twice in less than a week by tapping it and dislodging the black crap therein and vacuuming it out of the flue box…… so I showed them how to do that too (making it the third ‘clean’ in a week), but even though it restarted well, by the next morning I knew things were not right.  Scott had expressed interest in learning how to sweep the flue, so we decided this was as good a time as any.

It’s all my fault, of course……  last year I cut down one of those pesky Camphor Laurels, a common noxious weed variety of trees around here that are spread through birds eating their seeds and dropping them everywhere in nice packets of fertiliser. It turns out, after Scott did his own research, the wood from those trees is as close as nature will come to making toxic waste!

Camphor Laurel Cinnamomum camphora contains significant amounts of various chemicals known or suspected of being toxic and/or carcinogenic, which obviously create loads of horrible smelly creosote type deposits in your flue in amounts far greater than I have ever experienced from burning proper firewood.  Lured by its ability to burn ferociously and heating the stove quickly, I was merely clogging up my flue and choking my poor old stove.  And it’s probably a good thing none of our neighbours are downwind too, because Glenda’s been complaining about the smell of the smoke which at times I have to admit was a bit on the acrid side.  Why I never put two and two together until just now is embarrassing, really….

The AGA’s all good again, and I’ve shown Scott what CL looks like to make sure he never puts another piece of that evil stuff down the stove ever again.  And let that be a warning to anyone reading this who also uses firewood for energy.

All we have left to do now is pack……  and letting go of thirty years of accumulating stuff we don’t need.  Precisely what I should be doing instead of writing this.  DTM may be inactive for some time now until we get on top of everything.

See you in Tasmania.


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