STORIES FROM THE BUSH

Lynn Takayama
Retired

Wind, snakes and green drought, these are the salient points of the weather and its effects here in the past few months. It’s been a very long, very hot, dry summer and has been, among other things, a bad season for snakes. We saw snakes out and about two months earlier than is the norm here. In the last couple of months alone we’ve had to contend with a least a dozen deadly snakes (Eastern Browns, mostly) coming into our domestic world. That’s a very frightening thing for a gal who suffers from snakeophobia.

Of course, during the warm months every year there are many snakes all around in the paddocks. We know they’re there even though we don’t see them and we’re glad because they play an important part in the eco-system. Snakes around the house, though, (under the house, on the veranda, in the dogs’ kennels) are very worrying because of the danger they pose to us and our domestic animals.

It has been particularly windy in the past few months. Strong, hot, dry winds day after day, week after week. It doesn’t take long for the effects to become obvious. Dry soil; dry parched crops and ever-diminishing water stocks. Even after the recent lovely life-giving falls of rain … along comes the wind again. Soon you see, once again, the soil drying out, the green shoots beginning to wither and the stored water slowly evaporating.

We thought it was dry here when the river stopped running but we had a lot to learn about how much dryer it could get. With the ever-present hot winds and the high temperatures (in the high 30s and low 40s) day after day one really begins to form a definitive view of drought. It’s heart-breaking to see farmers having to sell their starving cattle for a third of what they paid for them. This is an enormous loss, not only in the first instance the loss on the original cost of the beast, but also on the future income that the beast would have provided. When the weather turns for the better and there’s feed in the paddocks, farmers will want to re-stock. That’s when the prices will sky-rocket and that will be the third aspect of the loss to the farmer who has had to sell his/her stock at such a loss: there won’t be enough money in the coffers to re-stock.

In the past week, however, there’s been some lovely rain — we had around 55mm here. It is magical how quickly grass shoots up again and how overnight the paddocks turn an emerald green. After the first 15mm of rain the cattle look fantastic: clean and full of spirits. Just like us humans. The calves run around, bucking and playing with each other. Just like us humans!

When it rains there’s no other topic of conversation. In town, people come out of the pub just to look at the rain. People walk in the rain, just to feel it wetting them. I, myself, went for a ride on my quad in the rain. I came back soaked to the skin and quite cold but that didn’t deter me from luxuriating in the feel of the rain in my face.

Many people around here had run out of their domestic supply of water. They had to have their daily wash using only half a bucket of water. The recent rain has helped that situation, and there are green shoots in the paddocks. Unfortunately, because it’s been so hot and dry for so long, there’s not much more feed in the bare paddocks now than there was before the rain. This is what’s called a green drought. For the growth to be sustained we need some follow-up rain, the winds to abate and more moderate weather. It remains to be seen how that will pan out. The river’s not running yet and there’ll need to be further significant falls at its source for that to occur, but at the moment people here are feeling pretty good.

The paradox for us is that we wouldn’t want to live anywhere else: harsh, easy, good or bad it’s a lifestyle that very few people get to experience, and we love it.