Thursday, May 26, 2011

Where have all the windmills gone.

I am now after a windmill and high tank to replace the electric pump on the Leven River that supplies the house and troughs with water. Wind is the greatest natural source of energy and it is freely available day and night. No level of government has yet worked out how to charge for the wind, though I have no doubt they would if they could only work out how.
A farm should always have a windmill but here in Tasmania they are about as common as hens teeth.

At Varna we had three windmills, pumping water in an endless cycle. All windmills, regardless of brand shared some common endearing features. The wooden platform just below the head rots after about ten years exposure to the sun and rain and is never replaced. To stand on an old platform is to court a speedy and somewhat painful descent however the narrow iron supports can always be relied on to safely bear your weight. The top five feet of the tower is always greasy and treacherously slippery from the slow oil leaks accumulated over decades of use.

Jimmys Bore
Jimmys Bore had a 21 foot Southern Cross standing on a 50 foot three legged tower. This pumped up water from 400 feet underground for stock. Every six months Michelle and I had to pull the twenty lengths of 4 inch casing to remove the hard white sodic deposits that would slowly choke the pump.    

Salty Bore
Salty Bore had a 20foot D pattern Comet on a 45 foot four legged tower. The water in this bore was so salty it was of marginal value. Stock would drink it but only if they had no other option.

House mill.
The house had a 12 foot mill on a 25 foot tower that pumped water from the dam up to the high tank that supplied the house. It almost looked like any other 12 foot C pattern Comet but the name “Sidney Williams and Company” proudly cast in iron revealed its age. It had stood on the dam bank since some time prior to 1912 and is likely to be there yet, still reliably pumping water as it has done for all the past century. Sidney Williams produced windmills from1879 in Rockhampton under the Sidney Williams & Company brand, only introduced the famous Comet name in 1912. These are simple, reliable, direct action mills running in Spotted Gum bearings. If the oil pot is topped up every couple of years and the wicks replaced every ten or twenty years, the wooden bearings last indefinitely. The C and D pattern Comets are still in production, a design almost unchanged in over a hundred years. Workplace health and safety requirements have led to a metal platform replacing the wooden one, ladder platforms, and other changes to the tower to try to make them idiot proof.

A completely pointless exercise.

One of the immutable laws of physics tell us that if you make something idiot proof the only certain outcome is a  bigger idiot. The safest person up a windmill is a frightened one. Completely bloody useless but perfectly safe. With both legs and both arms wrapped through the tower, you would need a crowbar to prise them loose.

Windmills are an inseparable part of the heritage of the bush. They are a tangible link between the past and the future where windmills will continue to pump water through this century and the next.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

As Winter Draws Near

A frosty early morning.

Yep a bit cold.

Yep it’s definitely getting colder. Well so it should be it’s only six weeks until the Winter Solstice. Ah yes the shortest day of the year. After that’s over every day is just that bit longer again. The nights have been quiet cold especially those clear no cloud nights we’ve been having lately. These nights are fantastic star watching nights if you can stand being in the cold outside while the steam rises out of your nose and mouth. So many stars to see in the sky down here in Tassie and the Milky Way is just extraordinary. No light pollution in this clear no smog sky. The moon is waxing beautifully and is at its half way stage.

My front garden wearing a coat of white.
We are only 11 days into May and we’ve had five frosts so far and two very heavy ones, with everything facing south and in the shade still very white at 10 am. These are just a taste of more to come as we roll on into Winter. I do love the distinct change of Seasons down here. It’s such a nice change from the humdrum of the same; never vary much (only gets hotter and more humid) temperatures in North Queensland. The Autumn display of trees has been beautiful. Wherever I drive it’s a feast for the eyes, all those tones of red, copper and yellow.

I wonder how the animals like the colder nights. They are being babied with nice fresh dry hay on their beds to snuggle up into. The pigs still sleep three in a row like they use to when they were piglets, they’re so cute to watch. The chooks have finally learnt to roost I still have a bed of hay in there just in case they want to lie on it. We have two hens laying now the others can’t be all that far behind. One lays in a nesting box and the other one has a spot in the long grass where she’s made a nice little nest. Thank goodness she lays in the same spot every time. The Geese still go in to their pen at night to sleep on their nice bed of hay. We have fifteen now after we picked up two females from Deloraine way. So there you have a bunch of nicely spoilt animals. I’m sure they appreciate it.

As for us keeping warm, well we are waiting on our wood stove to come from the UK. It will warm up the kitchen and dinning area and we are putting in a wood heater to warm up the lounge and office area of the house. Nothing like a roaring fire to keep you warm. John and I use to sit in front of the old wood stove we had on “Varna” of a Winters night and we would read a book or I would knit. We didn’t have TV that far out in the bush at that time, besides we only had 32volt power. Amazing what you can do without if you don’t have it. The heat from the stove warmed our poddy lambs and kangaroo as well. They loved standing right up near it to keep warm.
One of the chooks checking out the frost.

The garden isn’t doing much at this time of the year. Some of the bulbs have started to pop their heads up they’ll make a nice display in Spring. It’s time for the plants to take a rest and hide from the cold just like we will be doing on some of those very cold days and nights to come.