The climate is something that a lot of people don’t really think about much, unless they happen to be involved in climate change activism or have friends or family who are. For my family, I am that person – although my family are generally better than average in terms of awareness of climate change and the science behind it.
Weeks like this – 41 degrees Celcius yesterday, and predictions of 42 – 45 degrees every day this week – make me painfully aware of these issues. The heat is unpleasant for me, but I spend my days in my air-conditioned office, at my day job. Even the cats spend their day inside the house, and while we don’t have aircon at home, we do have good insulation and passive temperature control designed in, so it stays reasonably cool inside until late afternoon most days. But I feel for the chickens and the guinea fowl; the best I can do for them on days when I’m at work is make sure they have full water containers and some shade for the day, and leave ice in or near their water.
Imagine if you had to sit outside for 8 hours, with nothing more than tepid water and a bit of shade as your defence against the heat.
My birds are pretty tough; I keep Transylvanian Naked Necks deliberately because they handle hot weather better than most breeds (the featherless necks give them more skin to lose heat through), and guinea fowl are naturally heat adapted. I’m a bit worried about the chicks, but there’s nothing I can do that I haven’t done. I’ll pick up a bag of ice on the way home, and any birds which are looking too heat-exhausted will get their feet bathed in ice water to cool their core body temperatures. (As an aside, this is a very effective treatment for over-heated birds – I’ve done it before, and the bird in question recovered completely and was eating again that evening).
To be honest, weeks like last week also make me think about the climate. Rainstorms and maximum temperatures below 30 degrees C aren’t “normal” for Perth in January. But weird weather is the new normal, and we all just have to adapt.
I’m hoping that planting a perennial food forest will give us a bit more stability in terms of food production than the standard annual cropping that most farmers in WA practice. Of course, the trouble with perennial production is that it takes time to get established; we won’t be producing the abundance of fruit, nuts and oils that I imagine for a good 5 to 10 years. So we’ll need to work out some short term production strategies as a compromise with reality.