It’s now the beginning of Winter and the cold weather has kicked in with a vengeance. After quite a mild spell during the last days of Autumn, the first days of Winter have been bitterly cold, with mornings in our yard down to 2C and elsewhere below zero. Having all these gum trees in our yard gives us a small amount of protection from the clear cold nights and mornings, but a few degrees difference is neither here nor there, it’s still damn cold. It especially feels so much colder because of the warm(ish) weather we’ve experienced over Autumn and less than a week or so ago. So much for global warming, we seem to be missing out on it big time and even our wood-fired heater seems to be feeling the cold, requiring a lot more nurturing to bring out the heat and warm the house.
Anyway, I was on my way to Mossvale Park as I usually do most mornings and, on leaving Mirboo North, I thought that the fog in the valleys looked quite nice but oddly different. As I went further on and got to the more open areas I began to wonder about this fog, as it seemed to not just sit low but be all over the place which is most unusual for fog in the area. As soon as I entered the ‘mists’, I realised that this was smoke as the smell was quite distinctive and the further down I went the denser and more acrid the smoke became. By the time I reached Mossvale Park, I was glad to get out of the car, as the smoke was really getting bad as it slowly filled the interior of the car.
Mossvale Park was enveloped in a misty haze that subdued all the usual bright colours of a Winter’s morning, though the smell of smoke was reduced to some degree. Once on the ground, the smoke didn’t appear quite as dense as on the road and perhaps the morning mists that rise from the surrounding river may have elevated or diffused the smoke somewhat. But when I left Mossvale Park, it was obvious that the smoke had become denser and the smell was much stronger. When I was driving to Mossvale Park, I didn’t stop to take any photographs, but on the way back I decided to stop along the way and record some of the ‘interesting’ scenes that the smoke produced. Though I suspect that the homesteads in the valley didn’t greatly appreciate the dense and enveloping smoke that rolled across the landscape.
One of the locals on the previous Friday, while I was at work, wondered where the smoke was coming from, something that I hadn’t noticed at the time. My guess was that it was the logging areas clearing the wood scraps that are always left over from logging operations. Apparently the smoke in some areas was pretty dense that day. It could have been planned burns by Forest Fire Management Victoria, but given that the site provides no dates and their map shows nothing for the area, my assumption is that it’s HVP Plantations doing the burning. They have a large presence in the area and there’s been a lot of felling in the last month. Mind you, their website doesn’t say anything about this either; maybe they’ll post an update when it’s all over.
When I arrived back home from the morning run, it was then that I noticed the heavy smoke descending onto the township and even our street. Perhaps it wasn’t there when I left and it had drifted in while I was away, but it was certainly noticeable when I returned. It’s kind of ironic in a way how wood-fired heaters are heavily regulated as to the way they burn wood and emit smoke, including the type of firewood allowed to be sold, yet in just a few days these commercial entities are able to emit more uncontrolled and acrid smoke than perhaps the entire township or two in the area emit in an entire year. Perhaps if we were allowed to make use of the majority of this residue wood, this sort of mass smoke inundation wouldn’t happen. Wouldn’t that be nice, two problems solved in one hit?
So now that Winter is upon us, it appears to have given an opportunity for our nearby logging areas to burn off their piles of wet, residue, timber that is of no commercial use and which gets piled up into hedge rows as the plantations are cleared. It’s a pity that we can’t have access to this wood, as much of it is of a perfect size for use in wood-fired heaters, but because of our increasingly litigious society, the companies simply can’t risk allowing private citizens access to this wood. Additionally, this wood isn’t of sufficient quality or quantity for commercial firewood collectors to gather up and sell, so it just goes up in flames and smoke. A lot of smoke indeed as we experienced these first few days of the start of Winter.