Droughts and Flooding Rains

I guess if you are anywhere near my age (worse luck for you!) you will know Dorothea McKellar’s famous poem, ‘My Country‘ by heart, at least this part:

“I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!”

If you are farmers as we have been for most of our lives you will have experienced both (droughts and flooding rains). The droughts can be miserable times, and you have to hope that you have adequate access to good quality stored feed (hay). The ‘flooding rains’ are the most dramatic though, and once again we have had them in Gippsland – two days in a row.

NB I wrote this over several days so the time scale is wrong.

Only a couple of days ago ‘Facebook Memories’ reminded me that on this day in 2012 (and again in 2013 – would you believe it?) we had more than a month of rain in a single day – a pretty good fall – but ‘Hughie’ excelled himself yesterday with 7.5 inches, nearly double that in a day, and another 3 the next day. Over 10″ or 250mm mostly within 24 hours.

About the same as an event we had a couple of years after we settled here (in 1993) when our gentle creek turned into a colossal monster, blew out all our dams and fences and deposited over half a metre of debris along the bottom of our property. (We had to replace the creek fence). Yesterday was much the same, though the dams and fences survived (though hardly unscathed) this time.

We have lots of work ahead of us to fix the damage but we are still ‘weathering the storm’ really. we have spent days beginning to chain saw fallen trees/branches off fences and repairing pumps and generators etc. We have had no electricity (out nearly a week – thank goodness for the generator we installed over summer!), patchy mobile phone coverage, no internet. Our radio reception here is internet based and our TV reception is never good. Of course there has been no mail – or visitors!

Just to add insult to injury we have had (main) generator problems (fixed this afternoon) and the main water pump decided to fuse (again fixed this afternoon) – so now we have both just had our first hot shower in two days (bliss!).

Fortunately we have a wood heater so we have been warm and the secondary generator has provided us with lighting and we have even been able to watch a (recorded) series on TV at night – so hardly a miserable time really. And, as always we have each other – what a blessing that is!

Yesterday morning we crept down to the creek to assess the damage and took some fairly dramatic photos (to  compare with the more idyllic ones in the earlier post, ‘The Creek‘ below). This was our main dam overflowing. I really thought we would lose it.

Remember when we were building that flume? Della would have been swept to her death if she had been standing there with it overflowing like that.

This is its normal operation.

2016-05-31 10.29.04 comp

The (repaired) dam above it concealed this earlier flood damage.

2015-10-28 11.47.11 comp

Beneath a lovely dam (usually replete with ducks) and a lovely serene gully.

2016-05-31 10.29.52 comp

Somewhere to play on a sunny day.

2016-08-09 15.24.10 comp

Unfortunately this deluge (10″ over not much more than 24 hours) turned the area above the dam into a nightmare-scape. We had just completed (last winter) a beautiful new fox-proof fence up along the creek. God alone knows how we are ever to repair the nightmare nature turned it into overnight.

And it is only one of many problems we have now to deal with, and have been steadily working our way through. Hence the slowness of my postings over the last little while. We were nearly a week without power. Thank goodness we installed a new generator back-up system last summer which replaces the grid pretty much at the flick of a switch!

We have also been without mobile phone for quite a bit of that tie. The internet was down. Without the internet we have no radio and TV and no news. Naturally there was no mail delivery. For a time you could not even drive the 4 km into Churchill – so many trees were down and so much detritus (up to a metre of mud in places) over the road. Our water pump also decided to fuse during all this but I managed to cobble a (small) old one into service to provide a hot shower after two days.

Several trees were over our lovely new fences. We have cleared some each day though others remain. Unfortunately some trees continue to fall. A huge gum came down the night before last down in the creek and just missed taking out the flume. This tree must be well over a century old, probably more like three. Anyway it is at least 3 metres in diameter at the base, so it will be a mammoth task to clear it up – the work of many days for that task alone. The koalas will miss it.

I was wondering how we were to complete all the tasks we had already set ourselves between now and lambing (about six weeks away) but this huge destructive event has made most of that impossible. It has also made (alas) the prospect of getting up into the mountains camping/hunting for a week – which I had definitely planned – probably an impossible pipe dream.

Here is the upper creek in full flood

And look how all that mud has buried our beautiful new fox-proof fence. Goodness knows how we will ever get that restored before the sheep lamb -or maybe ever!

There is even a bit of a nasty slip above the plum tree.

The lower creek which looked like this if you remember

Now looks like this

Or this

We had some nasty trees down. This one just missed these two pieces of equipment (by about 6″).

One just next door took out the power line. This guy is over ten metres up fixing it (four days later). 

This will be harder to fix than it looks – a job for tomorrow. We have cut it and the new (to us) tractor should tow it out of the way.

And this. I will have to fell it on the fence before I can clean it up. There is an even worse one I have made a start on but it has me bluffed frankly. It is hung up in another tree, always the most dangerous kind.

This giant old blue gum fell just yesterday and nearly took out the flume. That trunk is still nearly 20′ in the air. At the butt the tree is around 10′ in diameter. Goodness knows how we will get it chopped up and removed. Still lots of work ahead of us but we have already removed about a dozen trees from fences etc and are just ‘soldiering on’.

A couple of brush tails decided to shelter in the garage from the storm.

And all these  very large moths decided they would hang around outside the front door.

Interesting times…

The Creek

Snow Day

A Dam Nuisance

Not Such a Dam Nuisance


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