Magazine Articles – October 2019

In newsagencies this month I have articles in Grass Roots No.255 (Roadside Rehabilitation) and in The Owner Builder No.215 (Embodied Energy Revisited and Coloured Glass Designs).

Roadside Rehabilitation takes a look at the work we’ve done at Red Moon Sanctuary to protect and bring back the native flora in the roadside reserves adjacent to our farm. Control of the African runner grass kikuyu, a pasture mainstay in Australian agriculture, is essential so it doesn’t choke the native vegetation – this grass will invade roadside reserves across the fenceline – as will other pasture species. It is our moral responsibility to get rid of these invaders in the roadside remnant vegetation, as they cause decline and extinction of the native flora (and associated native birds, insects, reptiles, mammals etc) left in the roadsides.

Roadside Revegetation - Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond Western Australia
Degraded roadside improving after four years of TLC. Ongoing intervention to control invasive weeds is required for the preservation of the native flora in these narrow reserves bordering vast areas of invasive species (pastures).

It’s standard practice in Australian rehabiliation ecology to use spot glyphosate applications to provide effective control of this problem – the least problematic herbicide on the market, in the least problematic way – for various good reasons which I explain in the article. Essentially, it’s analogous to using antibiotics where severe infections make that the best option – while at any other time, you’d avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics (and antibiotics are actually far more problematic for the body than glyphosate is for an ecosystem). Annual strip knockdown of pasture grasses on the fencelines bordering native vegetation is necessary to reduce re-invasion.

Active management of the situation is required – if you do nothing, you’re aiding and abetting species extinction, while perhaps congratulating yourself on avoiding the use of “chemicals.” More education is required on this subject, and I intend to write follow-up articles debunking some common misperceptions around this topic. By the way, we run a largely organic farm, but make exceptions for the sparing use of antibiotics, glyphosate etc where they are the best option to prevent bad outcomes for individuals or species.

Sue with Seedlings for Roadside Revegetation - Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond Western Australia
Sue with mixed native seedlings from the nursery, to act as nurse plants for the rehabilitation of this roadside remnant.
Brett after a Verge Revegetation Day - Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond Western Australia
Brett with re-planted nurse plants (like Acacia saligna), which will help shade out the grasses, which also require chemical control at this scale of re-planting, until the nurse plants are established and local species return from any seed reserves left in the ground, recreating a thicket. Woodchip mulch is very helpful for grass suppression, but expensive financially and ecologically. Re-invasion of grasses will still need to be constantly controlled at the pasture boundary.

Embodied Energy Revisited looks at embodied versus operational energy – the amount of energy required to build a house, versus the amount required to subsequently run it – and explains how some initial investment in high-energy materials, like concrete flooring for thermal mass, can be repaid many times over down the track in energy savings for home heating and cooling if the house is designed correctly for its climate and in accordance with passive solar principles that maximise natural winter heating and natural summer cooling. It’s always best to build well, and building small helps to reduce impact on budget and environment alike.

Lounge Facing East – Completed Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
Our exposed concrete floor with dark pigments in the top layer acts as a solar heat trap in winter, when the sun angle is low. In summer, the sun is automatically excluded by the appropriately designed eaves.
Autumn Sunlight Heating Dining Floor – Completed Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
Passive solar winter heating combined with excellent insulation and thermal mass means our house needs winter top-up heating only two evenings a week on average.

Coloured Glass Designs looks at an alternative to stained glass which is fun and inexpensive, and can produce beautiful results.

Painted Glass Sunburst Window – Completed Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
Sunburst design on eastern highlight window, done with glass paints and adhesive lead stripping.

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