I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
~ From ‘My Country‘ by Dorothea Mackellar
We endured eight hard years of drought at our old farm – a cattle property in the Lockyer Valley. Slowly the grass turned brittle as straw and the dams dried up as we looked to the empty skies for rain. The cattle ate the grass down to nubs and we trucked in feed, and sold down stock.
Water was rationed so carefully. A bucket of water for a shower, a quarter of a mug to clean your teeth. The grass powdered away to dust, and then the trees began to die. The wildlife disappeared, and there were no insects left to bite us, no birds to wake us with their morning call. Everything was drab, barren, baked brown and devoid of life.
All we talked about was the possibility or lack of rain, the cost of feed and who might still have some, and our great worry for neighbours and friends we knew who were doing it tough – financially or emotionally. Anxiety, depression, suicide – they became regular visitors in our part of the world. Families broke apart, or walked off land held by generations before them.
Big kangaroos moved in towards the coast from out west and ended up at our place, competing for what little food was left, and feral pigs rooted up our paddocks looking for roots and moisture.
It was miserable, and it nearly broke us.
So we moved to Possum Creek in the Byron Bay hinterland; a farm tiny by comparison, but so much more fertile.
The locals call it a drought here if we go a month without rain. Right now, rain seems to be all we have. We’ve been flooded in three times in the past few months, lost power, lost fences and one cow, and had multiple trees and branches down. Many of my vegetables have rotted in the ground. We’ll be lucky to get a crop from the organic citrus orchard this year.
Luckily our old farm house was built nestled into the side of a hill, so the buildings won’t flood – we just have to put up with a little damp and mold.
Still, I’ll take rain over drought any day. My water tanks are overflowing, and I can enjoy long hot soaks in the bath every day.
When I walk out my door there is an abundance of fresh blooms for my table. Everything seems to be flowering. Green is a colour that is lush and easy on the eye. There is no hardship in looking out over emerald fields.
The cattle might have wet feet, and they huddle under trees as the rain belts down, but their bellies are full, and there is water enough for them to drink out of seasonal streams as well as the dams, creeks and river.
Everywhere I look there is something to appreciate. Glossy leaves, flowers, new life.
The local wildlife are soggy, but well fed. During breaks in the rain they pop out to forage, hoping for a small patch of sun to dry themselves out. Then they scoot back under cover as the rain pours down again.
The waterways are washed clean, silt is deposited on the flats to renew the soil, and replenishment is everywhere.
This morning I’m sitting with a mug of tea cradled in my hands, listening to torrential rain on the roof and the mad croak of frogs, and watching the blur of micro-bats gobbling up all the mosquitoes on the side veranda. I’m wondering if it’s nearly time to go.
Lyme and my meds are giving me a twitchy right eye and a stabby, burny left eye, headaches, joint pain and my big fat heart is twinging a little too much for my liking. Not a great look for getting trapped on the wrong side of a wall of water. The weather radar shows rain, rain and more rain today, and predicts the same for the rest of the week. At sun up Ben will go check the causeway and sad as it will make me, it looks like we’ll be heading back to the city.
Maybe I’ll go buy some new gumboots while I’m there. When Bert was a puppy his needle-like teeth put pinholes all through my left gumboot. It would be nice to have two warm dry feet instead of one warm dry foot and one cold soggy one!