Property is a complex and difficult topic. Last week I lead a discussion group on the dreaded twin topics of money and property. The audio from that discussion group can be found here: Green Wizards recent discussion regarding Money and Property. When I was a child, my mother always used to admonish me to not discuss the following: Money; Politics; or Religion. That was some good advice, which last weekend at my peril I largely ignored, because I found myself discussing the first of those 'non-discussable-in-polite-company' topics.
It is really hard for me to know where to begin such an impolite discussion. Usually I begin by recounting my experiences as a young bloke who was faced with the 'recession that we had to have' in the early 1990's. Back then I experienced what the term LIFO means. LIFO of course is the fancy acronym for: 'Last In First Out', and it was originally coined as a method for valuing inventory, where the most recently introduced items are considered to be the first sold. In practical terms how LIFO plays out is that if you were to imagine you are on a sinking ship, and the only way to keep the ship afloat was to eject passengers, well under the LIFO arrangement, the last people on board, would be the first to be thrown overboard. Being a youngster in those days, I was made redundant from my first job, and then had to scramble to find some other form of employment during a period of 10% unemployment. Anyway that's what LIFO means to me, in purely practical terms.
After sharing my exciting experience of those heady days, I then went on to discuss how much property cost back in those days. Then I compared how the cost of property looks nowadays. The comparison is stark, and it's one that I take no joy in making.
On the other hand it is a comparison that is worth making because there are folk who want to get dirt under their fingernails, and attempt to grow some produce. That requires land.
The whole 'back to the land' story is a narrative in our culture. When I was a kid I watched episodes of the English television show: "The Good Life". The show was about a couple who chose to convert their back garden to an entirely edible and productive garden. I quite enjoyed the show, and the more conservative neighbours in the show provided a delightful contrast and entertaining foil.
But the story shown in that television show is simply not true. Nobody ever said that television has to tell factual stories. Sometimes though, those stories get repeated elsewhere and the 'back to the land' story is one that really annoys me. As part of the discussion I produced an article from the newspaper (I had a physical copy of the article): Survivor's guide to gardening plots the key to healthy produce.
During the discussion group last week, somebody knew of 'Kat' who is the person mentioned in the article. I applaud Kat's efforts in annually producing 350kg (or 770 pounds) of produce on such a small inner city plot of garden space at 171m2 (or 1,840ft2) because it is an impressive effort. However, it just makes no economic sense whatsoever. The overall land size was another 100m2 larger than the garden. It is a big block of land in the inner city.
From reading the article, I'd have to suggest that the property itself, given the inner city location and land size, probably costs somewhere around or over $2m. Yup, you read that right, I'm suggesting that if you wanted to purchase such a large inner city property in Melbourne, you'll need to have around two million dollars. How many young people have that sort of money? I sure don't.
If I were being optimistic, at a guess the 350kg of produce could be sold for about $4 per kg. That equates to an annual income of $1,400 from the garden produce. Now maths is not my strong suit (despite being an accountant - I guess that's what calculators are for), but I reckon that works out to be an annual return on investment of about 0.07%, which from an economic perspective makes no sense whatsoever.
The article also mentions David Holmgren, who is the co-originator of the permaculture concept. He is a nice bloke, and I've met him when I visited his farm in Hepburn Springs - which is a town connected to the nicest town on the planet: Daylesford. David owns a 2¼ acre productive property in Hepburn Springs. He's in walking distance to cafe's. It is a really nice property and in a great location, but far out, unless he's selling a whole lot of courses and books, I reckon he'd struggle affording such a huge tract of property, in such a nice location, nowadays.
It is a real problem this property thing, and it occurred to me today that fertile land in a good location is in rather short supply.
Of course, the alternative is to purchase much more affordable land that is probably not fertile at all, and is most likely in a really rubbish location which is usually far from anywhere (what no cafe!). This story should sound familiar to long term readers, as it is my story! On a more positive note, many of these serious problems can be readily overcome, it is just not realistic to expect that story to make any economic sense whatsoever.
Speaking of not making any economic sense, a few days ago I fed some of the fruit trees in the large mixed orchard one cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of mushroom compost. The editor came up with the bright idea of driving the dirt rat Suzuki and the bright yellow trailer down onto the paddock next to the orchard. That idea saved a huge amount of effort with the wheelbarrow. On the downside, the paddock is reasonably steep, but fortunately dirt rat Suzuki's is a four wheel drive with low range gearing.
|The dirt rat Suzuki and bright yellow trailer are used to distribute a cubic metre of mushroom compost in the orchard|
|Smoke from a nearby planned burn in Wombat State Forest produced superb sunsets|
|Smoke produces a yellow / orange light which gets reflected late afternoon in the tall trees|
|Ollie stands proudly next to the remains of an old tree stump which the loggers left. The scorching dates from the 1983 fires|
|The butt of this huge old tree appears to have been dragged to that location for some strange reason which we'll never know|
|The first step was added to the lower part of this existing concrete staircase|
|Take 2: Ollie the cattle dog was in a lot of trouble|
|Three steps were added to the staircase with possibly another one or two to go|
|A second yagi antenna was added this week for the internet service and the speeds have increased|
|Boss Plymie during her annual moult cycle. At least she has two good feathers!|
|The family of magpies teach their young how and where to forage|
|Grapefruit hang heavy and tasty on the tree|
|Lemons are plentiful|
|The annual rocket which grows over winter has just sprouted from seed this week.|
|A beautiful rose|
|The bush rose produces ever more flowers as it scrambles through the garden bed|
|Salvia's are both delightful and real givers in hot weather|
|Lavender is also a giver as this bee can attest|
|Basil mint grows in front of what looks like another mint (oregano) which is strangely red instead of the usual green|
|Geraniums love the sun and heat|
|I'm not sure Mr Toothy is impressed with geraniums|
The temperature outside now at about 10.00pm is 11’C (52’F). So far this year there has been 158.6mm (6.2 inches) which is higher than last week's total of 157.4mm (6.2 inches).