Summer Rain

It’s coming up to Christmas and into summer in Australia and its the time we prepare for the happiest of times and for the saddest of times. How I love winter, I love the fact one can get warmth and be warm whilst the weather out side does it’s job, it rains… well most times it’s does. We haven’t had enough rain yet and now coming into summer on the farm is going to be another long one (hot summer) that is. There are areas all over the world that could use rain to get out of drought and poverty, Australia like other countries has them at the moment.

In the country that I live in we have had a below average rainfall, and now summer has hit in a big way – much sooner than we wanted or expected. Outside our temperature gauge hit 37 degrees celsius 98.6 F the other day in spring and this is not considered unusual, it is part of the pattern of our seasons. With these types of temperatures so soon in spring many farmers are watching their crops ripen and set seed early so many will start to harvest. It will be a tough year for farmers in the south-east of South Australia with many harvesting early and many de-stocking to reduce food load on finances.

For the croppers they are cutting crops such as canola, wheat, barley and others early due to low sub soil moisture and no back up rains. They will be expecting the livestock people to buy the hay bales. They will all be wanting a good price for their hay but in times like this where most of them will be doing it I suspect the prices won’t be there, but we’ll see.

There are many things people do when they come into summer – most women shave their legs which they have left over winter as they were either wearing stockings or trousers to hide them and many people look to the perfect spray tan to start wearing summer clothing without looking like the lighthouse beacon with lily-white legs. In the country not only do women think and do these things they also have to work off farm for income and on farm as unpaid labour, the extra pair of hands to help when it’s easier to do the job ‘now’ rather than wait for paid employees. I know many a wife who help at shearing time in the shed as a general roustabouts whilst running and maintaining everyday issues of family, school, business and even continue their part-time careers during this busy time.

Summer also brings the thought of fire, when I hear dry lightning storms I worry, when I read there is to be controlled burn offs by the Government I worry more. I prepare for fire now, after having had 2 in the last 4 years. I listen and act, everything is in place, this year though there will only be a plan for 3 dogs instead of 4 with Pete safely at rest, it has taken some of the stress off me. All fire fighting equipment is checked and at the ready something no one wants to do but is necessary in a country where fire is one of the greatest dangers in national parks and on properties.

No fires for us this year, we keep hoping for summer rain and look to the skies when it gets dark and cloudy. With 9 Fridays left till Christmas it’s time to prepare and get ready for the celebrations with family and friends.

before and after shearing

Today is brought to you by the 3am and 4 am slaughter hour

The farmer is an animal lover and as such has cats, dogs, cattle, sheep and anything else that comes along. One day he sent me a photo of two baby foxes he saw living in our cattle yards and I banned him from bringing them home. We have a property that has kangaroos and he won’t go out and kill them because they eat minimal crops, he will occasionally shoot predatory birds that peck at baby animals that are being born so other than that most animals are welcomed into our home. I am currently hand rearing 2 calves Rosie & Delila and a Lamb – Josie who now live in my vegetable garden

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We also have the 3 lovely shed cats (called this because he found them in the shed and they now don’t live there) rescued from a freezing winter in 2009, Gatsby (a ginger cat)was rescued 2 years ago this month. All of them are desexed as I didn’t want excess of litters all over the farm and in the cold months of winter (and the hot days of summer) they live inside.

Many a night we have had parades of mice: alive and dead, rabbits: alive and dead birds alive and dead, bats 99% alive, gecko’s mainly alive that we have put outside and frill neck Lizards alive that leave alive as the cats have not worked out how to get through their tough exterior and frill when they protest. Our motto is that if we catch any of these things alive we lock the cats inside and let the animals go free outside.

Many a night I have woken to the sound of crunching and am so none fussed about it now I roll over and go back to sleep. If we hear noises we will get out of bed to try to chase the cats outside with the animal intact. Other times there is a “look at me, look at me” flinging and rolling with the animal (dead) in the spa bath. Where the cat shows us the prey and then eventually the creature is left intact and we are left to clean up the mess.

We have watched as these cats over-estimate their abilities and their prey – the farmer has seen Frankie stalking a kangaroo (as if she was ever going to catch it) we have seen Gatsby jumping in the air to catch swooping birds as if they were going to fly into his mouth, Matilda has on a few occasions stalked the chooks when we use to let them out, the chooks are confined to their pen as the working dogs try to round them up and chase them till they die.

I don’t mind it during the day but in the middle of the night I could do with out it, you know when you have to get up early, you set your alarm and you wake almost hourly hoping you don’t miss it? That was last nigh t and I was back into sleeping when I could hear a growling, at first I asked the farmer to roll over as I thought he was snoring  loudly so he did but the noise got louder and I realized it was coming from his wardrobe.

Bloody Cats fighting in the wardrobe, so I spring out of bed, turn on the lounge room light so as not to blind myself or the farmer but to shine light on the area, open the door and see nothing, I move clothes around to see if I can catch them hiding but I see nothing, so I shut the doors, stoke the fire and as I go to turn off the light I see 3 cats casually walking around the lounge room, squinting at the light with the innocent look of no it wasn’t me, I glare at them as I go to back to bed, it’s 3am. I’m back sleeping when the slow and loud growling starts up again, this time I’m cross I jump out of bed, step on the remote control, stub my toe on a laundry basket I have left in the way, go out to the fire, pick up the poker and come back to the wardrobe and one by one open the doors and thrash it about (hoping I can collect one of these cats as I do it). I look to see Gatsby’s tail disappear out of the wardrobe and run around the corner to get away and Rita slowly slink out heading towards the door. I shut the wardrobe put the poker on the floor and go back to bed, I note it’s now 4am.

Gatsby the only male

Gatsby the only male

Both of these cats go outside and as I drift back to sleep I become aware Gatsby is back in, he has jumped on my foot, shaken himself off as he is as wet as anything and flops down on my bed at my feet. When I do get up at 5am I note Matilda is standing by the wardrobe door, sniffing and I begin to think perhaps the other two were fighting over a late night slaughter. I didn’t have time to check before I left the house and I bet whatever it is will still be there when I get home this evening.

We have a spot I call slaughter corner, where some mornings we can wake up to find no evidence of the animal except a blood stained wall. We occasionally have a kidney or the bottom half of a mouse, if it’s a rabbit sometimes I get the entire gastrointestinal tract with pooh intact. Feathers of a bird are common and is the foot or tail of a rabbit. These can also be found out by the cat flap if they can’t carry it in or in the spa bath if we don’t hear them. Anything and everything is foul and I wish they would stop, once I asked the farmer “what’s with the green feathers in the corner?” without missing a beat he said “I didn’t like that grass parrot anyway!”

I occasionally say to birds, “You all need to live 1km away from the house as these cats will get you if you are closer. I feel exhausted before I even left the farm, getting home tonight will be a bit of a struggle, it is about 220km’s away.

3 cats on the car

3 cats on the car Rita on roof, Matilda in front of steering wheel & Frankie other side

back into it

It’s been an interesting start to the year so far, no the drought hasn’t broken and we are still feeding cattle hay which becomes as repetitive as anybody else’s work, except it comes with lots of noise. Cattle make noises and follow ‘the Ute and farmer around. It is still dusty and the paddocks show little growth despite the face we did get a good rain in January – our first since August / September 2014. No we are not talking climate change the 50 + years of records here show that it all averages out, we are having a moment with no rain.

We have felt the sorrow of a dear friend’s passing after a fantastic fight with breast cancer for 14 years and deeply admire Andrew (her husband) and Alex (her daughter) going into year 12 without their partner in life and mother. It is hard to imagine how much they have to change to adapt to a life without someone they love.

As I type this I hear the sound of the Ute and hay trailer pull up out the front of the house and wonder if it is my turn to get off the computer and assist. I think I am a token helper, and he likes my company. I get to cut and pull the strings off the bales, change seats and drive through the cattle in low range approx 5km’s an hour whilst he jumps onto the trailer and pushes the bales off so that the cattle are spread out and eat. I have to drive through the mob approx 300 and make sure i don’t hit them with the Ute as I go. I can however (if need be) drive the tractor and pick up the bales and load the hay on to the trailer and could it without him if there was ever a reason to, I was fully prepared to with our fire a couple of years ago, but he came home after 24 hours and as it was loaded went and did it before he slept.

We have also lost my beautiful mate Pete (Golden Retriever) in the last couple of weeks after 16 years and that i did find difficult when i first went into my office. He has really slept on the floor of my offices for the time that I had him and instantaneously I saw a clean floor (I know it’s a surprise to me) and missed his face looking up at me as I passed burst into tears and struggled all day with it. I am fine now, I really am.

I have also done a closing down sale’ with a dear friend in our rural community, I had stock from my first venture into retail in a country town in boxes and she could see that her kids clothing store was not paying its way we decided to have a joint sale. This went well despite the emotional upheaval this brought (not for me but for my lovely friend Lana), I have very few items left and it even made me have to do something about my pandahats.

Faux Fur pandahat

Faux Fur pandahat

plush fur

Plush Fur Pandahat

Those of you that know, realise I have a storage container of them (I am not going into the story of why I have them that’s now boring) so whilst Lana was busy with sales I was busy writing to children’s hospitals and associations to see if I could do a deal to be rid of them. No the Zoo is not an option I have been waiting for 4 years for them, they keeping coming back and saying they are interested but that is as far as it has got.

After struggling this year with lots of things I have now decided I need to ‘toughen up princess” I have had a positive response for my pandahats, watch out for world animal day and a teddy bears picnic in Adelaide over the coming months. Thanks to the Women’s & Children’s Hospital Foundation and also to the Tutti foundation, I hope you make lots of children smile and money from them.

Now that these things have passed it is time to concentrate on many new things, I have also managed a 6km brisk walk today for the first time since my partial rupture of my Achilles in May of 2014. didn’t make it in under an hour, but made it I did. Have a great sunday everyone and guess what I have a wedding anniversary on 10th march, 8 years I find this amazing as I never thought I would actually ever get married. It’s a 3rd on the podium (bronze) only 17 to go to get to second place.. Copperart anyone?

 

 

It’s Fire Season

There are terrible fires in South Australia at the moment, we have lost homes and sounds like there is going to be lots more lost before this day is over. I can only imagine what those people are feeling having lived through a property fire myself this time last year. It is hard to imagine unless you have been in one, the terror one feels, I am feeling really anxious about this coupled with normal farm issues, I had a very sleepless night.

It didn’t get below 27 degrees here after reaching 44.3 degree Celsius yesterday, for those volunteer Country Fire Fighters and metropolitan Fire Fighters, out battling these fires it must be over 100 degree Celsius in all of their fire protection gear. They are in it and the front line to stopping this awful thing.

I had to ask my husband last night to turn the radio off due to the distress I was feeling, he normally sleeps with the radio on due to his tinnitus (roaring ear noise). The radio is on this morning and I am gob smacked with what I have heard. Our official state fire co-ordinator telling us, the fire planes and bombers have had to not go into the area as there was an unknown plane (tourist) having a fly over the fire zone. Can you imagine this? I can’t, the pilot of this plane should be arrested and lose their license, as far as I am concerned.

I hope that once reported by the officials that they could not enter the area, that plane should have been tracked and police waiting for them when they land, except we know how hard our Police are working today as well, they are SAVING people’s lives. There is a whole town evacuated and they are stopping people from entering danger zones, directing traffic out of the areas at great risk to their own safety.

I can send only prayers for all of the CFS volunteers, fire fighters and people who are in the danger zone today. Houses can be replaced, I have my fire plan which I have everything in place in case we get lightning and fire today. I know my way out of property via 3 different routes and have got all of our things ready. One never knows when it strikes and coupled with wind it can cause massive destruction.

Here is a picture we took last year July 14th 2014 of where a lightning bolt ‘blew up a tree’, it was lucky it was in winter or the fire it would have caused would have been terrible, my husband found branches over 10 metres away.

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Tourists in the fire zone

We were asked by media yesterday to take them up to our boundary where the Ngarkat fire went through so they could get a feel of what happened and get our story. The lovely Wendy Collis from the abc country hour drove out to our property and spent the afternoon with us. It was the first time I had been out there as well to look at it, it was very upsetting. I will put the link up for the interview once I have it, but waking up and hearing ourselves on radio twice brings it home a little more.

As we look to the west, north and south it was nothing but black charred sticks where once there was trees. It was stumps in the ground or worse still nothing but grey sand where small native yakka’s and shrubs were. There is evidence of the speed and furiousness of the fire, blue tongue lizards, reptiles, kangaroos who couldn’t escape. This vegetation will not recover for many years, nor will the native animals and pests that died during this fire.

I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness, there was nothing we could do nor we should have done during this fire, no life is worth losing for vegetation. we are insured and are thankful that we will only have to replace fences. It is only slightly annoying to not have a landline – but this is something I know people are working on and will fix when they can.

Chris and I spent the afternoon with the lovely Wendy Collis reporter from the abc country hour, who came out to the property to interview us and have a look. She was taken aback by the sight and during our interview along comes a car of tourists, no word of a lie, they were travelling in Ngarkat along the fire track, stopped and got out to talk with us. I asked him what he was doing “are you sight-seeing?” “yes, we just wanted to have a look rather than drive round.” “right then” we all stood and looked at him with his teenaged daughters as they waited. We think they wanted us to regale them with the story of the fire but we stood silent. I wanted to scream at them, but this would engage them and encourage them to stay longer, we all laughed as they got back into their car and drove off. These people were at least 16km into the park, no protection, nothing, they were not even locals, they wouldn’t have known driving off whether they were driving into harms way or not or even the terrain they were travelling on, it still is head shaking.

Here are the two pictures one at the fire and then after it has been through

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Back to normal?

Here we are it’s Monday and it feels surreal that we had a fire here only 4 days ago and a really big fire at that. But now that it’s over and I have cleaned ash out of the house it’s back to the business of getting things done. First call, insurance company to inform them we had a fire and that we will be requiring their assistance as we lost fencing.

Yesterday I called Telstra to let them know we had no landline to be told that the exchange was damaged in the fires and they will be out to fix it as soon as they were able and it was safe to do so, they were hoping to have it complete by Wednesday this week. They have redirected all calls to my mobile and given us a tag so that when we call out it is charged at the cost of landline rather than mobile, they are doing all they can for fire victims.

We have had friends call, text and email us that saw me on the TV in other states, it has been nice to hear from everybody as they showed concern. I have had face book and twitter messages that have meant a lot and spoken as best I can standing in the one spot in my kitchen that you get mobile signal from, with the people who I love and care about.

Part of the bonus of the fire (if you can call it that) is that having the sprinklers on for days at a time we have luscious lawns surrounding the house and we have let the Dorper Lambs in to eat it down. As I sit and type they are baaing at each other and eating as much as they can. It is a lovely noise to listen to, no longer is the UHF on the emergency channel, nor the radio giving us fire updates, I like the silence today, I have a breeze blowing in and the sun is shining, all looks good in my little world.

I have managed to clean the house of the ash and the place looks incredibly tidy, one thing I have been doing as I go is taking pictures of all of the furniture, pictures and nick knacks in each room, should we ever lose the house to fire we would have a pictorial diary of our contents and things. The other thing for me is to now look at getting rid of some of it. Why? you ask, well these are the things we would leave behind and do we want to keep them around us now? Things like bookshelves full of books one only reads once, DVD’s that sit around waiting to be watched more than twice, items we have kept “incase” we need them, well after this fire, I have realized we don’t. Everything I wanted was packed ready to leave with me and it wasn’t a lot, photo’s of my daughter as she was growing up – before digital.

It is amazing how two people can accumulate so much but being alive nearly half a century, you do gather stuff, now is the time to start getting rid of it, give it away and or sell it. I did this 14 months ago after the last fire, so now it is time to do it again. It will take a while but it is something I will be doing so that we can reduce the fire load in the house. Have a great Monday, here are some of our Dorpers in the yard see they really are grass-fed.

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Waiting …… fire

Waiting

Ready

Resting

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Relief danger has passed

These are the clothing that provides protection and identification for my husband when he goes off to fight fire. They are protected and cared for as they cover one of the people in my life that I would find very difficult to live without should these clothing not do the job for which they are designed.

They wait outside for they smell of smoke and inside it is over powering

They are ready to pull back on whilst we still have fire in our area.

They are resting from the last 4 days of being used for hours at the end

They provide a picture of relief, he is home and the danger has passed us, not others though.

Our thoughts are with all those in these zones that didn’t get much sleep last night, that are surrounded by smoke and that feel the stress of these fires.