12 April 2024

Warming to the idea of turning on the heater before Anzac Day? Cold comfort if you're in the bush

| Sally Hopman
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Old wood burning in a pile on a farm

While (some) heaters went on in Canberra, Yass folk warmed to another idea – the annual Burn-Off or Get Rid of Junk and Make a Cuppa Day. Photo: Sally Hopman.

We won’t tell anyone but … were you one of those rebels who broke the (frozen) solid Canberra rule this week and turned on your heater even though it wasn’t even close to Anzac Day?

Deny it if you will, but the secret’s out and you’re in hot water. It’s like once the temperature drops to just one digit, heaters are anybody’s, shockingly, regardless of the date.

(There were also rumoured sightings of puffer jackets this week, but we couldn’t possibly go there – not without proper protective clothing.)

You have to wonder, though, who made up the Anzac Day rule? People wearing socks?

READ ALSO Canberra region heritage festival helps bring Yass cemetery back to life

Sure, it’s easy to be virtuous when you live out in the bush. Few of us have heaters, instead having to rely on open fires or combustion stoves or things with smoke that are doused upon in town.

There’s also a bit of a tradition out here that comes with the first mouse sighting – or when you haven’t seen a snake for at least a fortnight.

It means it’s time for The Burn-Off. When everything and anything you don’t want that is even slightly combustible is lobbed onto a pile, ideally a fair way from the house, animals or anything else you value, and set alight.

It can and does burn for days, reducing everything from monster stumps to dead unmentionables to ash. And you can also make yourself a cuppa at the same time.

It’s the sort of thing only good farmers know how to do, and when, properly. Clear a bit of land, ensure it’s not too close to stuff that you’d prefer to keep. In the olden days, you’d drop a note in everyone else’s RMB to tell them why they’ll probably see smoke hovering about tomorrow. These days, you just post your plans on the online noticeboard that covers your road.

Burn-off pile in a paddock

There’s an art to burn-offs in the bush – handy hint: avoid during summer. Photo: Sally Hopman.

If someone does do The Burn-Off without taking all the precautions, it’s easy to spot and even easier to hear – the sirens are a dead giveaway.

Then there are the other Canberra “rules”. The sort of things people do but don’t talk about. Don’t worry, your secret’s safe here, we won’t tell anyone. Like how it’s OK to slag Canberra off when you’re in Canberra but never when you’re in NSW or worse still Victoria. Even if you can’t wait to do a runner, in a southerly direction down the Hume, you’re not allowed to say so interstate.

Also, like when you’re interstate and people think everyone in Canberra knows exactly what goes on inside Cabinet rooms, regardless of the fact you’re a dentist at Weston Creek. Of course you pretend you do, have insight that is. That somehow, during extractions, you hear that something significant is going to happen with China – well it is the Cabinet room.

Sort of like when you’re overseas and people find out you’re from Canberra, Australia. “You must know my cousin then, he visited Canberra in 1996.”

It’s a small world, after all.

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I got a suburban block in one of the government land sales. Instead of a builder’s speccy, I put in an energy efficient passive solar house. Works better than expected. Hardly need heating at all. If you can, then do it.

Admittedly I am one who feels the cold much more than the average and love warm weather(What am I doing in Canberra?) but this season and a few of the previous ones have been much cooler than usual and my heater has been on already. I only used the cooling function for about 2 hours total during the entire summer and early autumn.

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