Tuesday, January 14, 2020

When John Deere becomes too dear

Very slow getting underway in the new year. I'm working on a course. My apologies to all.

Interesting article in Vice by Matthew Gault, Farmers Are Buying 40-Year-Old Tractors Because They're Actually Repairable.

It's not a long article but it deals with the problems of repairing equipment when you need a computer for the repairs and where the digital rights software attached to the computer built into the equipment require you to take it to an authorised outlet for repair, adding to time and costs.

I must admit that I am getting a bit tired of the costs, risks and reduction in choice associated with new technology, Yes, I know that I am a troglodyte.  We have established that before. I am well aware of the gains associated with new technology, I am as reliant on the convenience associated with the technology as anyone else, But, still, I am in rebellion.

So far, that rebellion has taken no form other than bewailing and a degree of anger when things go wrong. I am reminded of old man Carson in R S Porteous's book Brigalow. I really like that book. Mr Carson can be irascible, especially where equipment breaks down or service is bad. He is constantly threatening to write to the manufacturer or supplier.

One day after a really bad blow-up he goes to his office and gets our a pad and pen. Normally, he only uses the office to write up accounts or keep that detailed weather log that forms the love of his life. There is a considerable pause and then he comes out onto the verandah to get a glass of water from the canvas water bottle that hangs there all the time to keep cool, "You know, Bob", he says to his manager Bob Anders, " one day I will write."

I guess that I'm a bit like old man Carson. Still, you never know.

Postscript 21 January 2020

kvd kindly pointed me to this 2015 link which shows that the John Deere problem has been around for some time: New High-Tech Farm Equipment Is a Nightmare for Farmers 

Postscript 19 April 2020

Again thanks to kvd for the links,the  in  'Right to repair' taken up by the ACCC in farmers' fight to fix their own tractors, the ABC's  Kit Mochan reports that the ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) will examine whether international tractor manufacturers are failing Australian farmers who want access to software tools and parts to repair their own machinery.

As part of the process, the ACCC has released a discussion paper on the issue and is also surveying producers. You can access both here.  The due date for responses to the survey has been extended to Wednesday 22 April 2020, while the due date for submissions to the discussion paper has been extended to Sunday 31 May 2020.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Reflections on the end of 2019 - my garden

Toothless surrounded by Clare's plants
And so the year ends and possibly a decade too. I say possibly because these markers are the subject of debate.

When the Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed on 1 January 1901, it was a nation for a new century. You see the century and hence that first decade began in 1901. 1900 was the last year of the nineteenth century, not the first year of the twentieth century. That reflected then counting techniques.

Today when we talk of the start of a decade or indeed century, it's generally the 00 not the 01 that marks the start. So 2020 marks the start. I will go with that while maintaining my in-principle support for the purist position!

This has been a tumultuous mixed up year at multiple levels, one in which I have found it difficult to concentrate on other than immediate issue including especially my return to Armidale. My writing has dropped away as a consequence, It follows a decade that has been troubled in both a personal and professional sense.

I don't feel much like talking about all that. Instead, I want to focus on a more important topic. Clare and I have developed a new rivalry beyond writing, gardening. She is again in front even though she does not have a garden as such!

When I moved back to Armidale I was determined to start a new garden despite the water restrictions. Just before I came back, the Council introduced new restrictions forbidding any use of water on gardens beyond gray water. I complained at the time because I thought that the restrictions were draconian, short sighted and likely to have perverse results. I stand by that view, although I am somewhat more sympathetic now. I hadn't realised all the demands on the town water supply, especially with the fires. Still, despite all the media hype about the city's water supply problems, with current water conserving techniques in place and assuming no further rain, we have 373 days water to "Day Zero." 

Note that in talking about gardening, I am not talking about even hand-held hoses, just the use of buckets or watering cans to keep small patches alive. It's possible to use very efficient water conserving gardening techniques, but only if you can apply water at certain critical points. For example, you can't use mulch effectively if you cannot first wet the ground to be mulched  and then wet the mulch to set it. Otherwise, it blows away. And you try creating a compost heap when you cannot apply any water.

I said water restrictions create perverse results. In the interests of conserving water, I have cut both the frequency and lengths of my showers. All I need to do to get the minimum water I want is to move to longer and daily showers with a bucket in the shower. I am then not breaking any restrictions, but can modify my shower routines to give me my minimum water requirements. I have talked about this before, but I wonder why Councils have to be so prescriptive? I would trade off my showers and other water usage if I could use the the water on the garden.

Despite all the problems, I did get a tiny veggie patch going with Rosemary (this is critical in cooking), mint and coriander. The mint bolted to seed because of the heat . but I did get a small crop. I started a compost heap using leaves around the property, nothing is decomposing because of the absence of rain combined with heat, but this blew away in the wind as did my attempts at mulching. I guess at that point I kinda gave up, accepting that I would just have to import water via my supermarket purchases.

Clare's gardening efforts provided a new incentive. I will do better despite the constraints.

Over November and December we had enough rain to cause the grass to grow. Looking out from where I write, you would not know that there was a drought compared to the brown, crunchy, stuff that I walked on when I first moved in.

A few days back, Dave (my next door neighbour) kindly mowed my back lawn. They have been very kind, something that I will talk about in another post. Suddenly, I have a pile of grass clippings large enough to form a proper compost base. Then, under Clare's influence, I bought more seeds, seedlings and lucerne mulch. Sugar can mulch is cheaper, but not so good.

We are not talking a huge garden. I am working in tiny patches, but I want to do it properly in a way that will really save water while improving the very bad soil.

There are things that I can do to further save water, For example, putting a bucket outside when it rains. The house has no tank. Tanks largely vanished in Armidale under previous council rules and are slowly coming back with changed rules, but there is no way that the owner of my property will pay to install a a tank because that would be dead money for him. But a bucket outside would give me a little extra water.

Beyond this, I think that the answer lies in more showers or even a bath. And while I cannot wash the car even with a bucket, I can wash the car windows. That is allowed for safety reasons. I have done so once. The windows are very bad. If I do that once a week, that's a bucket a week.

I have quite a lot of hard surfaces in the family room, the entrance area, the wet area. I sweep them all the time, but they do get dirty, dirt that is being tramped onto the carpets. I have mopped them, cleaning the mop under a running tap. That wastes water. If I clean them using a bucket, then I can put the bucket water onto the garden.  Those hard surfaces need cleaning once a week, each clean involving several buckets.

To compete with Clare, I need set-up water. After that, it's care and maintenance.  I think that I can find enough water within the rules, if with a bit of an effort. Of course, if the water position gets worse then I may have to prune, change my approach. I do accept the need for restraint. After all, I have been here before.

Postscript 3 January 2020

Following the start of the year Armidale had another 14 mils of rain. I just sat there on the front verandah, letting the storm sprinkle my feet, Looking out the window, it no longer looks drought ridden, although the deciduous trees lining Queen Elizabeth Drive give the lie to that. While green, the leaf growth is patchy, straggly.

Going out yesterday morning to the little side garden by the laundry door, I found the soil damp, a contrast to the baked earth when I first came up. This allowed me to plant my seedlings and mulch the small cultivated area.

 A friend used to laugh at me when I said went out the back door waving scissors saying that I was going to harvest the water cress. The current equivalent is cutting mint to add to the carafe of iced  water in the fridge.