Friday, 26 December 2008

Learnings from a Car Accident Rescue

Posted by Picasa
Just before Christmas Day I sent out the following as an email to family, friends and acquaintences as part of a festive season greeting. The response was extremely positive so I've decided to share the experience more widely via publishing on Ochre Archives.

During the year Jan and I were driving to Melbourne. We were not long out of Grenfell when we came across a car that had rolled and was resting upside down smouldering. We were 3rd on the scene, with those before us having been there only a minute or 2 before us … an elderly gent in one car and two people (a bloke and a sheila) in their 20’s who were travelling together through their work.

It quickly became evident that driver of the up-turned vehicle (lady … senior citizen) was still in the vehicle and was unable to get out. When I reached the vehicle the elderly gent said to me something like “you’ll have to smash the window to get her out” and he then promptly left the scene. After a quick look I could see that the rear door on the passenger’s side looked to be undamaged. On trying the door handle the door came open easily. The driver was fully conscious, had managed to undo her seat belt, was lying on her back on the ceiling and was, to put it very mildly, relieved to see that there was a prospect of getting out. The other bloke and I spoke with the driver and each other and decided that we’d pull her from the vehicle pronto regardless of the risk of further physical damage to the driver as it was clear it was highly likely the car would soon be engulfed in flames. We moved her as gently as we could, taking her 20 metres or so from the vehicle. Talking to the driver some more it became apparent that her shoulder had been damaged in the process of the car going off the road, rolling and hitting a tree. The cause of the incident was very simple … she’d had one of those micro-sleeps.

Meanwhile Jan had called emergency services (000) on her mobile. We were located out of normal service range so whilst Jan did manage to get through the signal was very dodgy and we were not confident that we’d communicated what was happening and was needed well enough. I then rang from another mobile.

There’s quite a bit more I could go into about the incident, but the most important things to convey are the main learnings for us:
1. If you need to call emergency services it’s useful to remember that those on the other end of the phone have one objective – to glean from you as quickly as they can an accurate brief outline of what the situation is and to convey the message to the appropriate people.
2. Those in the emergency services call centre are unable to access information on other calls that have been made. Thus when I called them to check that Jan’s message had got through OK the person was blunt and got me to re-tell the whole thing again.
3. When calling emergency services one of the first questions you will be asked is whether you need police, ambulance or the fire brigade. In our case we needed all 3 – police to report what had occurred and to help with control of traffic, and ambulance and fire brigade for obvious reasons. The most frustrating thing about the process of accessing emergency services was that we did not know what was going on at the other end. We had traffic to deal with, a patient that needed care, and a car that was gradually going up in flames. Not the best of times for clear decision making.
4. When we moved the lady from the vehicle in hindsight we should have moved her much further than we did on the first attempt. We had to move her a second time which caused her more discomfort. We also should probably have parked our own car further away.
5. We did not think to retrieve her personal belongings and by the time she asked where they were there was no way any of us who were on the scene were going to go anyway near the vehicle.
6. Jan and the other sheila did great work in talking to the driver when she was out of the car. We always carry a small blanket in our car which they used, and they made her as comfortable as possible until the ambulance arrived.
7. A bloke in a Telstra truck did two things that I thought were fantastic – placing his vehicle between the car that was upside down and the driver (to offer more protection) and getting on the UHF truckies’ channel to warn trucks to take a detour if possible (making less work for us at the scene).
8. The policeman who turned up did not need to get statements from any of us who were at the scene as the driver was conscious and told him that she’d gone to sleep (cause of accident) and none of us others witnessed the car running of the road and rolling.
9. On speaking with Jan’s brother when we did arrive in Melbourne he shared with us how he now has a small fire extinguisher in all his vehicles. Apparently Jan’s father once came across an incident where the driver was trapped in the vehicle and he and others could do nothing else but watch the vehicle and its occupant burn. We have subsequently gone out and bought 3 small fire extinguishers (each about $20 from Bunnings). There is one in the house and one in both the ute and the car (under the front seat). I've no idea whether there are additional risks in having a fire extinguisher under the front seat of our vehicles. If anyone wants to do what we've done then they should do their own checks.
10. From the time we arrived on the scene and the time the car was in the condition you will see in the attachment was probably about 15 minutes. Time is of the essence. There is no way anyone would possibly survive the burning of the inside of a vehicle.
11. I felt that it was somehow wrong for me to take the photo in the attachment but I did so purely in the interest of helping others get a sense of what a burning car looks like (and most certainly not for personal gain). Believe me you WILL know when the fuel in the fuel tank in a car goes up in flames.

The really good bit of the whole thing is that the driver of the car had a full recovery.


Since emailing the above to various people I’ve received many responses and additional suggestions. Quite a few people have told me they have taken direct action to improve fire security in their homes and cars. Here’s a selection of the other suggestions:

Brian M: “On fire extinguishers. They have been standard equipment in Mercedes Benz cars since the mid-60's, mounted at front base of drivers seat but some bureaucracy deemed they were the wrong type and should be removed! I’ve continued to buy and keep one in my vehicle.”

Paul C: “Everyone should do first aid. Some people are scared of moving people in case they get sued for causing further injury. There is a Good Samaritan act that covers you in emergencies.”

Sue H: “If you turn off the ignition fire is less likely to happen. If you dial 112 on your mobile for help when you are out of range they can talk to you easier than 000. Don’t hang up your phone – they can trace your signal to get to the spot.”

David G: "Your comment about the fire extinguishers rings a bell with me, as I have carried one in my various cars for more than 30 years in case I ever need to use it on either our car or someone else's. So far I haven't used one. In the past I have pulled a few drunks from crashed cars in the country and fortunately they were not too badly injured and no vehicles caught fire. Only a month ago I used one of my tow ropes/hawsers to pull a large Merc. out of a ditch as his driving wheels were in the air so he couldn't get any traction, so perhaps all of the first aid and recovery/repair gear I carry comes in handy at times."

Richard H: "If you are lying on your back trapped in an upturned car, what can you do usefully with a fire extinguisher if the fuel tank is about to blow?". Realistically not much at all. In the incident we came across, driver may have been able to slow the rate of burn within the car but not much else. The point I'm trying to make / share is that having a fire extinguisher in the car may enable you to save someone else if / when you come across an accident. PD

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Planning to Bring Livestock onto Ochre Arch

We have been considering a range of options for bringing livestock onto Ochre Arch. In the end we opted for agistment to kick things off. Basically this means we will get paid an amount each week per animal and from a business perspective are effectively selling access to pasture grass.

Some of the pros and cons of agistment include:


  • Payment is received (generally) monthly and in advance so payment and cash flow is certain
  • We will be controlling stock moves, and thus also their impact on our land to ensure it is consistent with our goals
  • We have (conceptually anyway) very high flexibility around stock numbers and duration
  • We are not responsible for carrying major activities with the stock other than moves. With sheep, for example, these would include shearing, crutching, fly and other insect control measures, lamb marking, animal buying and selling
  • We don't have to allocate funds to acquiring and owning the animals
  • There is a strong incentive for the owners of the stock to work closely with us, a benefit of which is that both parties learn from each others' knowledge and experience
  • Flowing from the above, social interaction benefits

  • Less financial return. No share of the profits ... or the losses should they occur, either!
  • Reduced control over how certain aspects of the stock are managed
  • As the stock are moved onto our place from other areas they may bring with them unwanted weed seeds, pests and diseases
With the above in mind we reached agreement with Paul & Linda from Young that they would supply sheep onto Ochre Arch. Both we and Paul & Linda are of the view that in the long run if managed correctly cattle are the best type of herding animal to run to improve pasture. The main factors taking us to this conclusion are:
  • Cattle have 5 stomachs and (arguably) produce the best quality manure which in turn stimulates the soil microfauna extremely well. Some argue that the high fertility of the prairies in the USA is directly attributable to the impact of the Bison over many centuries. I've also read that the reason the Hindus treat cattle as sacred is attributable to this feature, with them believing that the bulk of a beasts mental energy goes into running its complex digestive system.
  • Cattle have the ability to spread seed through its digestive system more effectively than sheep
  • Cattle have the ability to create more powerful hoof impact, in turn breaking capped soil more effectively.
  • Cattle also graze very differently than sheep, using their tongues to break off the grass rather than nipping and nibbling at ground level with their teeth. By so doing cattle leave more leaf matter, in turn leaving more 'solar panels' to continue to capture and convert solar energy into plant herbage mass through photosynthesis.
Despite the above we were very comfortable accepting sheep from Paul and Linda given Ochre Arch has good sheep yards and no cattle handling facilities.

The key step in determining how many stock we could run was to estimate both total available feed on the farm and livestock feed requirements. The steps involved in this included:

  • On a paddock by paddock basis working out how many square metres it would take to fill a plastic shopping bag with grass based on present grass cover. This equates to roughly 1 kg of herbage mass or enough to feed a 50 kg wether (castrated male sheep) for 1 day. In livestock management terms a 50 kg wether is classed as 1 'dry sheep equivalent' or DSE.
  • Based on the class of livestock being agisted, work out how may 'dry sheep equivalents' each needs per day. Some of the factors which are taken into account to determine 'dry sheep equivalents' include animal type (sheep, cattle, goats etc), body weight, pregnant or lactating, and number of offspring at foot
  • Using both of the above numbers calculate number of animals that could be theoretically fed for one day on the total property, broken down by paddock.
  • Based on the proposed number of animals to be supplied, calculate how many days they could be fed from the existing pasture assuming no pasture growth
  • Adjust animal numbers such that (assuming no growth in pasture) the animals would have enough feed for the planned duration of the agreed agistment term plus a margin.

When we carried out the above calculation Paul and Linda were considering bringing 50 kg wethers onto Ochre Arch. As mentioned above, these animals are each equal to one 'dry sheep equivalent'. The four of us went to each of the paddocks on Ochre Arch and came up with the following figures:

Paddock, Area (ha), Sq m / 1 animal day, Total animal days, Days grazing - 3,000 animals
Front, 9, 16, 5,625, 1.9
Duck Dam, 15, 4, 37,500, 12.5
Forgotten, 19, 9, 21,111, 7.7
Contour, 40, 9, 44,444, 14.8
Middle Hill, 38, 25, 15,200, 5.1
Spring, 45, 4, 112,500, 37.5
Plateau, 69, 4, 172,500, 57.5
Native Pasture, 49, 9, 54,444, 18.1
Lookout Rock, 105, 100, 10,500, 3.5
Total, 389, 8.2, 473,824, 158.6

The figure of 473,824 theoretically means that there was enough pasture grass on Ochre Arch to feed 473,824 50 kg wethers for 1 day. Looking at this another way, theoretically there was enough grass for:

  • 1,000 wethers for 473 days, or
  • 3,000 wethers for 158 days

We are determined not to have to substitute feed (provide feed such as hay or grain as a substitute for pasture grass) animals on Ochre Arch, and also wanted to make sure there was a large conservative margin for error in our feed and consumption calculations. We also want to have large numbers of animals to achieve the benefits of animal impact.

In the end we agreed that Paul and Linda would supply 3,000 wethers for 90 days on the understanding that we would monitor available feed and that numbers would be reduced if and when necessary to ensure we did not have to substitute feed.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Ochre Archives Newsletter - Issue No. 9

Welcome to the ninth edition of ‘Ochre Archives’, our farm newsletter.

Feedback on Ochre Archives - Issue No. 8
Sandra L. asked “so what happened to the cute 'enemy no. one' that was sitting on your verandah?” We ended up giving it to Jan’s brother for his birthday. On the same subject Peter H. commented “As to your furry friend - I remember being on the sidelines of a discussion part way through last where people with some knowledge of the field and without a vested interest seemed to be generally in agreement that there were major doubts in research circles as to the impact of the cat on native species or at least the resultant conclusions drawn in some circles.”

Aboriginal archaeologist, Sue Hudson responded that we needed to “take great care with the unusual-formation rock as it may be a gnamma (namma) hole, and that the hole in the middle could be ‘Cleverman’. Please take some close-up photos and keep people well away from it / not to tell people about it as these things can be very dangerous”.

Our curiosity levels sky-rocketed and our subsequent research revealed that holes in the centre of rocks were sometimes used for food/medicine preparation and it is not uncommon to find a thin stone lid or cap nearby which would have been used to keep the holes covered. Armed with this information we returned to the spot and found that in fact there were two similar formations on the same granite rock AND about 6 metres slightly down-slope from the southern formation there was a thin (17 mm) piece of granite that exactly fitted over the southern of the two formations as a lid as you can see in the accompanying photo.

The other critical observation we made that was the centre holes were both extremely rough with no evidence of any grinding (using other rocks) having taken place. On this basis Sue concluded and confirmed that the formations are natural and not of Aboriginal heritage significance. In our researching we also read about the Aborigine leader 'Pemulway’ or ‘Rainbow Warrior’ who was considered the first freedom fighter against white invasion in NSW during the late 18th century. He was named after the great Rainbow Serpent who forged the river valleys around Sydney and was known by his people as a 'cleverman' due to his secret powers and skill at avoiding and escaping from capture. Pemulway gathered together and led tribal warriors from Lane Cove to the Blue Mountains, continuing a war of fire against the growing settlement. When he was finally killed, his head was sent to England for scientific study.

John L asked ‘Where is Grenfell?” The town of Grenfell is located due west of Sydney Latitude: 33.90 °S Longitude: 148.17 °E. The map below (courtesy Bureau of Meteorology website) shows the location within the state of New South Wales. The elevation of the Grenfell weather station is 410 metres above sea level.

Greg L astutely observed we’d not recently mentioned finding any "nasty's" (such as snakes) on Ochre Arch. Ochre Archives - Issue No. 2 included a photo of a black snake. Sightings are very rare. We have avoided further references as we’ve found most people are terrified of snakes and prefer not to even think about them. Greg’s comment has been a major catalyst to the taking and inclusion of the various spider photos in this edition.

Seven readers have indicated they are interested in finding out more about the possibility of taking equity in livestock on Ochre Arch on a profit-share basis.

Self confessed “Grenfell refugee now living on the Liverpool Plains”, Craig Carter, suggests that photo we’d identified as Red grass (Bothriochloa macra) looked more like the Giant Red grass (Bothriochloa biloba). Craig has lots of both on his place with “the latter starting to succeed in a cell grazed plains grass environment”.

Findings from recent trips to the farm
Trees and Shrubs
The shrub in this photo is called Cauliflower or Dogwood bush (Cassinia aculeata). To many it is classed as a ‘woody weed’ given its penchant for colonising disturbed areas.

In a few paddocks there has been no stock for over 12 months now. Whilst there has been significant regrowth (existing plants) of some shrub species the only obvious regeneration (new plants) of trees and shrubs seems to be the Currawang (Acacia doratoxylon), shown in this photograph. Currawangs are commonly known as a type of Wattle.

In recent weeks we’ve been planning to construct some new fences. In the process we came across the this White Box (Eucalyptus albens) with a horizontal branch not bad as a short term resting spot.

Milton Lewis instantly recognised the nest in this photo as being the egg case of a Preying Mantis.

The moth (or maybe butterfly) in this picture caught our eye, immediately following a rainfall event.

We locally refer to what you see in this photograph as a ‘Bush spider’ but now know (courtesy of Milton Lewis) it is a Golden Orb Weaving Spider (Nephila Tetragnathidae). The large specimen is female and if you look very closely you can see a tiny male near her head. Pretty gutsy little character we reckon!

The web of these spiders is extremely strong to the extent that small birds can get caught. They are reluctant to bite (humans!) and do not cause long term discomfort if they do.

We think the spider in the above photo might also be a species of Orb Weaver. At the time we took the picture we’d no idea of the vibrant red and orange colours on its body, given it was taken in the middle of the night and all we could make out was where to point the camera.

Below is a picture of what we refer to as Grass Spiders. They are very small (despite the apparent size in the photo) and the numbers have increased significantly given the (current) long grass cover over most of the place.

We’d been told that as the amount of grass cover increased it was likely that the number of flies, mosquitoes and rabbits would decrease. It may be a figment of our imagination, and there might be a whole bunch of other factors at play, but at this point we have noticed reductions in the number of all 3 species.

We’ve no idea what species of spider this one is It was only a few days after this photograph was taken that we found the entire web closed-in like a cocoon.

We’ve come across 1 new species since the last newsletter taking the total to 69.

Curiously one outcome of allowing the grass levels on the farm to reach full height has been the exit of the Banded and Masked Lapwings from their usual haunts, given their habitat preference for ploughed and short-grassed sites. On the other hand there has been a continuing rise in the numbers of Quails on the place.

Mikla Lewis made us aware that a couple of species of plants commonly found on Ochre Arch (and many other parts of Australia) and considered to be weeds are in fact edible – in small doses and in a well balanced diet.

The species below is known as Pigweed (Portulaca oleracea). The Queensland DPI website explains it “is a succulent annual plant which can be excellent stock feed. It grows throughout Australia in coastal and inland areas. It responds rapidly to rain and can dominate previously bare patches and stock yards, especially after a dry period. However, oxalate and nitrate compounds in pigweed are potentially lethal.”

Mikla explained that the plant can be used as a substitute for lettuce in salads. We’ve tried it and agree. It was bazaar that a couple of days after learning about this plant Phillip got talking to a bloke from Turkey at a roadside stop who explained that the plant also goes well diced very finely and mixed in plain yoghurt with the addition of a little water. In this bloke’s words “A beautiful treat”!

The picture below shows the fruit and plant body of a Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum) plant. It is a native annual plant (not to be confused with the exotic perennial ‘Silver Nightshade’). Phillip’s Mum recalls her father telling her as a child not to eat the fruit also, but that she and her brother used to eat them regularly - and survived!

The Australian Bushfood and Native Medicine Forum website states: “The berries from the common garden and crop weeds Blackberry Nightshade, Solanum nigrum and the Glossy Nightshade, Solanum americanum have a variety of tastes sensations ranging from a sweet mulberry-like taste through to a somewhat bitter taste. The early settlers frequently made jam from the shiny black berries (10 ounces of sugar to the pound of fruit). The tender green leaves were also cooked and eaten.” Mikla also makes jam from the fruit.

Despite our best endeavours we have been unable to identify the two species of vines shown below.

Grasses and Forbs
Here you can see a native Kidney Plant (Dichondra repens) described in the Darebin City Council website as “An excellent lawn substitute in moist shady areas where traffic is light.”

The Purple Wiregrass (Aristida ramosa) seen below is thriving on a few places. It’s a native species, not terribly palatable for stock. Plants commonly live for anywhere from 5 to 25 years.

We think the plant pictured here is a type of sedge or reed. There are only a few dotted around the place, all on light soils in locations that become waterlogged in wet years.

The species below is yet to be identified. It is in some ways similar to Black Roly-poly (Sclerolaena muricata) in that it’s spiky, tough and not particularly ‘human friendly’.

In the same vein, the following picture shows what’s known locally as Cotton Bush in flower. It tends to colonise on bare ground and provides habitat at times to small lizards.

This summer has been particularly good for Common Blown or Fairy Grass (Lachnagrostis filiformis). It is this species shown below that provides much of the cover for the quails mentioned previously.

There is an area of a few hectares located to the south of the main dam on Ochre Arch that is open sloped country interspersed with dead standing and fallen timber. To us this is a classic example of the value fallen timber can have in retaining nutrients and fostering herbage biomass production. The photo below shows a log surrounded by a large volume of grass (mainly Red Grass) in comparison to the immediately adjacent open country.

We have been considering introducing Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) but in the past few weeks we have found it is already on the farm (see below), although only in 3 locations, and even then only a few plants. The Australian Native Seeds website explains that “because of its deep roots, Kangaroo grass can help maintain a low water table thereby assisting to control dryland salinity.”

All we know about what’s on the trunk of the tree in the photo below is that it’s ‘some type of fungi’.


We found the frog above residing in the outside toilet. Milton Lewis has told us it’s a species of tree frog.

One of our neighbours recently completed a cool burn of pasture grass in the paddock next to the house as a lead-in to sowing a winter cereal crop. The photo below shows remnants of the stems of the previous season’s crop covered in a thin layer of soil – put there by termites. These small creatures play a very significant role in keeping the mineral cycle ticking over in brittle environments.

Here’s a close-up shot of an Eastern Striped Skink (Ctenotus robustus) we found on one of the rocks in the Plateau Paddock. They are insectivorous and occupy a wide variety of habitats from tropical and temperate woodlands to heaths and rock outcrops throughout eastern and northern Australia.

In Closing
Once again, feedback is most welcome, via email to

Kind regards… Phillip & Jan Diprose

Link to Ochre Archives - Issue No. 8

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Bundled Product Deals from Telstra

Last week I purchased a mobile internet card for my laptop which (hopefully) will enable me to access broadband from the farm.

The decision to change over all stemmed from a sales bloke calling to offer special deals on bundled services through Telstra. By 'bundled services' I'm referring to situations where one has more than one product from a supplier, and the supplier offers reduced pricing or special discounts for you to 'bundle' the two together onto one bill.

We've elected to bundle our farm telephone account with the mobile broadband internet service, and within this will now receive up to 50 free local calls per month on the farm phone.

If you currently have more than one product with Telstra and want to find out what deals are currently available the number to call is 1800 039 059.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Ochre Archives Newsletter - Issue No. 8

Welcome to the eighth edition of ‘Ochre Archives’, our farm newsletter.

Feedback on Ochre Archives No. 7

Elizabeth Flann advised that she is having some success in establishing False Sarsaparilla (hardenbergia violacea) as both climber and ground cover in her new indigenous garden at Chelsea (Vic.). Elizabeth has several dillwynia growing as they make a hardy and attractive feature in a small garden. A friend of Elizabeth’s has even used them successfully to create a Japanese style garden and they look very effective among the rocks and stone sculptures. We have also managed to successfully transplant a seedling from the Middle Hill Paddock to under the mailbox out the front of the farm.

Tein let us know that early settlers used Sweet Sarsaparilla (Smilax glyciphylla) rather than False Sarsaparilla for tea making as the former is truly sarsaparilla-flavoured (very sweet and strong when nibbled). False Sarsaparilla has similarly coloured and shaped leaves. Both are weak twiners and occur in the same ecosystem type, however, the difference is that the Sweet Sarsaparilla has three main veins.

Derek from Quirindi has found that what we thought were native bees are in fact a type of hoverfly. He made the identification discovery by chance after finding what he suspected were their larvae all through their barley crop feeding on aphids.

Findings from recent trips to the farm
Trees and Shrubs

Mikla Lewis tells us the mistletoe in this photo is the common Box Mistletoe (Amyema miquelii), probably so-called because it grows on Eucalypts and especially Black Box, according to Plants of WNSW. It's also called drooping or stalked mistletoe and has a lovely red flower. We have only found one Mistletoe plant on Ochre Arch to date, and have been told by an environmental scientist that large numbers in concentrated areas can signify that the ecosystem is out of balance.

Our attention was drawn to the fact that the Silky Oak (Grevillea Robusta) tree near the house was flowering by the distinctive call of a Blue-faced Honeyeater.

Silky Oak is a native of NSW and Queensland and is now grown as a popular ornamental tree all over the world. The tree requires full sun for maximum flower development and is the largest of the Grevilleas reaching 30m tall in native areas. The timber is strong and silken in texture and used in cabinet making and craftwork.

To date we’ve located over 20 Angular (AKA Propeller Bush) Hop-bush (Dodonaea truncatiales) plants, two of which are fully mature at around 3 metres in height. The commonly used name is derived from the shape of the flowers – similar to the four pronged wooden propellers as you may be able to see in the photograph.

Last week we found a Deane’s Wattle (Acacia deanei) tree not far from Ochre Arch. It’s the first wattle we’ve come across on the place.

Many of the native plant species are seeding presently, and the ants are very actively creating mini-storage dumps, like the one you can see in this photograph.


We’ve come across 3 new bird species on Ochre Arch since the last newsletter:
• Australian Hobby or Little Falcon (Falco longipennis). These are almost exclusive on-the-wing hunters and in the stoop, a Hobby may reach speeds of well over 100km/h. Large females have been recorded taking Galahs, though their main prey species are smaller than this. The Australian Hobby in the accompanying photo sat curiously watching us for well over half an hour as we were using the chainsaw to cut into sections a large tree that had fallen across a boundary fence.

• Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). Our neighbours to our east re-introduced Emu to their property many years ago and over time the numbers have grown. It’s not unusual for us to come across an Emu on our place and we enjoy watching their antics. The Emu is the world's third largest bird, after the Ostrich and the Cassowary. The nest of an Emu can be up to 1.5 metres wide.
• Black Falcon (Falco subniger). These impressive avian predator birds are uncommon and their main stronghold and breeding region is thought to be SE Queensland and NW Victoria. After breeding the birds migrate and disperse across most of eastern Australia and north-west across the Northern Territory to the Kimberley WA.
Our bird species tally currently stands at 68.

The Crested Pigeons that nest in our shed have just produced more offspring. Mikla tells us “They nest anywhere and anytime and make good 'fodder' for raptors, which is just as well because they are one of the 'increaser' species.”

Grasses and Forbs
The rains through November, December and January, coupled with an absence of stock have resulted in Ochre Arch having a reasonable cover of vegetation. Here’s a photo taken in the Spring Paddock. The primary pasture species you can see is Hairy Panic (Panicum effusum).

The taller couple of plants visible in the foreground of the photo you can see are Redgrass (Bothriochloa macra)

There was a colourful cover of native Yellow Burr-daisy (Calotis lappulacea) during late spring across the southern end of the Forgotten Paddock. You can see one of the plants in flower in the accompanying photo.

Here’s a photo of a single Small Grass Burr (Tragus Australianus) taken near the front gate. The species colonizes on bare ground.

On a recent return to the farm we were confronted out at the verandah by what is arguably an Australian wildlife conservationists ‘enemy number one’. This natural killer was incredibly quiet, and we are not sure whether this was due to having been dumped or purely to temperament and lack of previous contact with humans.

Rock Formations
The aspect of the rock formation in this photograph that captured our attention was not so much the shape but the realisation that with little more than a light shower of rain it creates a small but valuable temporary water point for fauna in its vicinity.

During one of our walks we came across the granite rock formation you can see here – a circular pattern with a centre hole.

A friend of ours near Quirindi, John P., is studying geology so we emailed him a copy of the photo seeking comment. His much appreciated response reads: “The rock photo is indeed interesting, raising some questions that cannot be answered from the photograph 'per se'. The regular hexagonal / polygonal cross-section reminds of magma cooling joints (hot rock shrinks) that form normal to the gravitational flow. However, such are typical of low-viscosity flows (eg. mafic ('black') basalt) and not of highly viscous rhyolitic or crystalline felsic ('white') granitic material. And one would expect to see a whole lot of such surrounding the rock in the photograph. That is, one wouldn't get just one column (hence, "columnar jointing") by itself.

The rock in the photo may come from the cooling of expelled late / residual melt mush (eg. aplite; material high in volatiles and/or silicate incompatible elements), but again, one would expect such low viscosity expressions to result in many cooling joints. Late melt rocks are generally found at the top of the oblong / ellipsoid plutons. (Here I am still assuming that the rock is essentially granitic in composition
- this may not be so. A sample is needed).

Another unusual feature is the hole in the middle. If not made by aboriginals, it might evidence material / mineralogy vulnerable to weathering on the Earth's surface. Further, the rock might be one large feldspar crystal (unlikely).”

We’ve yet to send John a sample or search for similar formations in the surrounds. If the formation was made by Aborigines it would be neat to know what the purpose was.

Community Working Together
In late October a local bloke (ex-farmer) delivered some materials to us. Just before reaching Ochre Arch he’d noticed some smoke rising from a creek on a neighbours place, only a few hundred metres from our boundary. On investigation he and Phillip realised that no one else was aware of the fire so contact was made with the neighbours, including the local fire Captain. Within 10 minutes or so there were 20 local farmers on hand, all working on putting out the fire. We were all very fortunate in that the conditions were such that the total area burned was contained to only a couple of hectares. A few learnings included:
• Two of the golden rules in fire fighting are ‘Don’t panic’ and ‘Try to be useful’
• The Bureau of Meteorology tracks EVERY lightning strike in Australia. A lighting strike caused this local fire.
• The Membership Application process to be become a volunteer with the NSW Rural Fire Service is somewhat arduous, but we’ve come through OK.

Out of curiosity
We are thinking of scoping setting up a structure enabling others to take equity in the stock we manage on Ochre Arch, with the returns being a share of the profits. One of the motivations is enabling the creation of stronger linkages to the land for those who might not have such an opportunity. If this sounds like something that might be of interest to you please let us know.

In Closing
Once again, feedback is most welcome, via email to

Kind regards… Phillip & Jan Diprose

Link to Ochre Archives - Issue No. 7

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Correlation between Rainfall and Elevation

Six months or so ago I analysed the data from the three climate monitoring sites closest to and surrounding Ochre Arch. These locations are Forbes, Quandialla and Grenfell. One observation was that the mean annual rainfall at Grenfell (elevation of 410 metres above sea level) was 602 mm whilst Forbes (elevation 240 metres) was 503 mm and Quandialla (elevation 250 metres) was 521 mm. Given that the elevation at various points on Ochre Arch increases by approximately 100 metres (from 315 metres near the house to 415 metres at Lookout Rock) it struck me that there was a reasonable prospect that the rainfall on our place is greater at the highest point and that the order of magnitude would be around 20 %. We now have rain gauges near both the house and Lookout Rock and we are finding that we consistently measure 20 % more rain near Lookout Rock – especially in instances where the rainfall in the area is general rather than narrow storms and such like.

Following on from my previous post looking at temperature and elevation I decided to use the climate data from the locations in and around the landholder sites to see what the correlation was between annual rainfall and elevation.

In the accompanying graph you can see the results. The vertical axis represents both elevation in metres above sea level and mean annual rainfall in millimetres. The horizontal axis shows each of the locations – sorted by ascending elevation from left to right.

Whilst it would not be appropriate to conclude that what occurs in these locations could be expected to be experienced in locations in all regions the graph does show rainfall continuing to increase with elevation increase. At lower elevations the annual rainfall is a much higher multiple of elevation (roughly 3 times) whilst at the higher elevations the rainfall is a much lower multiple (roughly 1 to 1 at Crookwell). This suggests that the trend is likely to reverse at a certain point and a quick look at the data Guyra (elevation 1332 metres, annual rainfall 926 metres) tends to confirm this – although Guyra is in a totally different region.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Correlation between Temperature and Elevation

A mate of mine (David McL.) told me not so long ago that as a rule of thumb, all other things being equal, the temperature at different locations falls by 1 degree Celsius for every 100 metre increase in elevation. Thus a place that was 100 metres above sea level could be expected to be 8 degrees hotter than a place that was 900 metres above sea level.

I decided to put this concept to the test using real historical figures sourced from the Climate Online Data produced by the Bureau of Meteorology. The locations I selected are all on reasonably similar latitudes and are in or adjacent to the various local districts where (most of) the landholders live who are currently participating in a project I have underway in conjunction with the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority and Lachlan Landcare Network.

The approach I took was basically:
1. Source the climate data from the Bureau of Meteorology website for each location
2. Divide the elevation of each location by 100 to derive a temperature adjustment figure. Thus the adjustment figure for Ivanhoe at 85 metres above sea level is 0.85 (degrees C) and the figure for Frogmore given it is 500 metres above sea level is 5 (degrees C).
3. Add the respective adjustment figures to various temperatures (types) for each location to derive an ‘adjusted temperature’ figure. Adding the adjustment figure to the actual temperature in this way is in effect theoretically determining what the temperature would be at sea level – as a common denominator.
4. Analysing the results for various temperature types (such as maximum temperature, mean maximum temperature, mean minimum temperature, and lowest temperature) to test the hypothesis that the temperature falls by 1 degree C for every 100 metre increase in elevation.

My conclusion from the above analysis is that there is a very strong correlation supporting the hypothesis when using data for the mean maximum temperature. The correlation in the data was not nearly as good for the temperature types: maximum temperature, mean minimum temperature, and lowest temperature.

The accompanying graph shows the annual mean maximum temperatures (degrees C) for each of the locations I selected (line at the top of the blue shaded area) together with adjusted mean maximum temperatures (top line of the graph). The maroon shading represents the amount of the adjustment that was applied in degrees C. The vertical axis is temperature in degrees C and the horizontal axis shows each of the locations I selected. The numerical figure at the end of the name of each location is the elevation above sea level. As I’ve said previously the elevation figures were divided by 100 to derive the temperature adjustment figure. For graphing purposes I sorted the locations left to right in order of ascending elevation.

The key points from the graph are:
1. As the elevation increases the actual annual mean maximum temperatures decline (line above the blue shading)
2. The amount of the decline in temperature as the elevation increases is in fact roughly equal to 1 degree C for every 100 metres. This is graphically demonstrated by the fact that the top line figure in the graph is virtually straight and level from left to right – across all elevations.

POST SCRIPT: After completing this post I sent a link to another mate, John F. who happens to work at the Bureau of Meteorology. He subsequently sent me a link to an article that explains some of the science behind the temperature change impact. Here is a link:

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Energy Consumption by Person / Vehicle Type

During the past couple of months I’ve come across some figures on energy output and consumption that I thought were worth sharing. Here goes …

Human V Oil / Coal Based Energy
The amount of energy in a litre of fuel is roughly equivalent to the amount of energy used by one man working 8 hours a day for 3.3 days.

Freighting Cargo
A litre of fuel will power the transport of 450 kg cargo over the following distances:
170 km by rail via freight train
17 km by road via freight truck
0.4 km by air via plane

My data source for the ‘Human Energy’ figure is David Marsh from a talk he gave at last year’s Carbon Farming Expo and Conference at Mudgee. The ‘Freighting Cargo’ numbers are from Fred Hays at the Center for Sustainable Resources in the USA. I’ve converted their figures as appropriate from gallons, miles and pounds to metric. (NB: One gallon in the USA equals 3.8 litres). Obviously there are a whole bunch of assumptions behind all of the figures. Whilst I’m sure one could spend plenty of time debating the specific magnitude of each calculation I doubt there would be much room for debating the overall fuel use rankings.

I don't have any figures on the amount of fuel required to transport goods via sea, however one suggestion that I read recently seems to have significant potential - using technology to set sails on cargo ships to leverage wind at appropriate times.

Fuel Consumption in Sydney each Tuesday
Fuel prices in Sydney and Melbourne vary of a weekly cycle, with Tuesday being the cheapest given consumers need to purchase is less. Prices are increased by the fuel outlet owners before and over the weekends to catch those consumers who need to top-up before going on non-work related trips and visits. The total fuel demand every Tuesday in Sydney is in the vicinity of 11 M litres, which approximates to the amount of liquid that would be held in 11 Olympic size swimming pools. On days other than Tuesday demand is around 5 M litres.
Given that the total population of Australia is now around 22 M this means that every Tuesday the fuel volume sold is roughly 0.5 litre for EVERY man woman and child in this entire country. Reflecting back on the amount of energy contained in each litre of fuel mentioned at the start of this post the amount of energy contained in the fuel sold in Sydney each Tuesday equates to the amount of energy that would be expended by almost 320,000,000 men doing manual work for one hour.