Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A holiday in Europe

I'm out of the country for a few weeks, visiting family in Switzerland and exploring France.

If you're interested you can follow my travels on a blog that I published five years ago and have now reactivated. Boobook explores Europe.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Solar power research

At Bridgwater on Loddon there is an experiment happening. These dishes of curved mirrors focus sunlight on to photovoltaic cells. You can read more about it here. These are the views from the road but it would be good to see them up close. I wonder if they ever have open days. 

It's a pity that here in Australia the renewable energy target keeps changing - how can people invest in the technology and research with confidence?

Monday, 20 July 2015

Riverina cotton

Around Hay the land is flat, very flat, and there are large areas of saltbush country.

But it is also perfect for irrigation.

It's winter, so not the growing season, but as we drove on the roads near Hay we couldn't miss the fact that cotton growing is a major activity. There are cotton bolls lining the highways, debris from carting the large yellow rolls of cotton to central storage areas after harvest. I know cotton is an organic product but I wonder how long it takes to disintegrate. One plus might be that bird nests in the area will have soft linings.

Cotton debris littering the sides of roadways.
The hundreds of large cotton rolls are wrapped in bright yellow plastic. Is that plastic recycled?

Rolls of cotton
And there are 'turkey dams' everywhere - large dams that perch on the flat landscape, that must take an enormous amount of effort and resources to build. In my area the local water authority is closing shallow water storages because they are inefficient, the water evaporates too quickly. So why are they building shallow dams for cotton irrigation? I'll have to do some research.

So I'm morally torn today. In my hobby of patchwork quilting I only use cotton fabrics. In summer I love wearing cotton because it it so cool. But as I drive through the cotton-growing area I'm feeling a bit negative about how we grow the cotton.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Kidman Way

We hear about snow in other parts of New South Wales, in areas that haven't seen snow for decades. Roads are closed because of snow and ice, but not where we are on the Kidman Way. We've travelled in brilliant sunshine all day.

Kidman Way north of  Hillston, NSW.
We're drove south from Bourke through some beautiful country, mostly bush, rather flat with the occasional hill or peak around Mt Hope. There is a tinge of green everywhere because there has been rain in the last month and it contrasts with the red soil and the grey foliage of the trees and shrubs. As we neared Hillston on the Lachlan River we saw signs of the agriculture. Hillston has diversified from cropping and grazing to fruit and vegetable production - cherries, potatoes, olives, cotton, almonds, capers, jojoba, citrus, watermelons and more.

Off course the downside of this is that they need water for all of the above. They use underground water and by using proper management the water entitlements have been reduced by half to 108 000 megalitres. That still sounds like a lot to me.

The largest Cashmere Goat flock in Australia is farmed near Hillston but we saw hundreds of feral goats by the highway as we travelled south. They are a real pest, doing damage to the environment by eating vegetation and trampling the fragile soil with their hooves. We saw dozens of dead kangaroos on the highways in NSW and Queensland but not one dead goat. They graze by the roads but we slowed down to avoid hitting any on the road because we didn't want to damage our vehicle, and I presume everyone else does the same. The kangaroos graze at night and try to cross the roads the heavy vehicles are travelling at speed - they don't slow down for anything.

We've also seen cactus, particularly in Queensland on the St George to Cunnamulla road. Prickly Pear cactus was a huge pest in the past but it is still not completely under control. Weeds and pest animals are a problem all over our beautiful country.


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