Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Everything I know about drought

I don’t know much about drought. Even when I saw her face, I didn’t recognise her.

Years before I moved to Burragan, we visited ST’s mum and dad one summer. Their house yard was a true oasis in the middle of a desert, in every sense. Outside the confines of the garden fence, they were feeding hay to cattle and saving animals from of empty, muddy dams. At the time, I didn’t realise that was what she looked like.

I don’t know much about drought. But I know that she’s inevitable.

I am lucky – or perhaps unlucky and lulled into a false sense of beauty and romance - to have moved to Burragan in the middle of several great seasons. This year, we’ve just less than average rainfall. We are thankful for that. And yet it’s dry. It’s dusty. It’s only getting hotter.

I don’t know much about drought. But I can feel her creeping up on us.

The signs are there. Selling stock. Buying hay. Blowing bores. Boggy dams. Empty tanks. Moving stock. Fierce winds. Thunderstorms that are no longer viewed as salvation, but instead, as fire threats. Those afternoons that smelt like rain; but when they came, they looked, and felt, and taste, like dust. Perpetrations for a dry summer.

I don’t know much about drought. But I know she’s more than a lack of rain.

She’s stress. She’s suffocation. She’s the haunted eyes of men whose strength is buckled by the weight of the world, and women who wish they could take the load off.

I don’t know much about drought. But I wonder if we will recognise each other, when we meet again.

I know we can’t be friends, and yet, to survive in this environment I cannot view her as the enemy.

We might have to learn to get along for quite a while.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

It's a jungle out there

I’ve faced many challenges during my time at Burragan which seem totally removed from my previous life. These things were definitely not part of the plan. Not part of being a farmer or farmer’s wife. Not part of being 100km from the closest tiny town, or 200km from the next.

But generally they are a lot to do with being smack bang in the middle of the Australian bush. Because let me tell you, it’s a jungle out there.

Yesterday I was weeding in the garden when an emu came right up to the fence to say G’day. That’s pretty standard. I’m used to it now. There’s a group of three who’ve been living near the house for years and every season they bring their babies back too.

Kangaroos are a common occurrence over the back fence too. And when I see them cruising by so casually, I think to myself, If I was from another country, then this would be the equivalent of what Australians feel when confronted with lions, elephants and giraffes while on safari in Africa.

Except I’m not from another country. So it’s just like, whatevz.

But remember how excited I was when we had that run of echidnas a few months back? They’re more elusive you see. A bit of a novelty.

Conversely, there’s the livestock. Sometimes they also get a bit closer than expected. This one time, before we had a fence around our house, I got up in the chilly hours of the morning, stumbling to the bathroom without my glasses on. I looked out the window into a blurry sea of white and called back to ST in the bedroom, “Baaaaabe… Either it’s snowed overnight, or there are 3,000 sheep camped on our doorstep.”

The cattle are also notoriously curious, with a need to rub themselves up against, or attempt to eat, anything man-made. Including the electrics in the tractor.

And then there’s the wildlife that isn’t so welcome. Lizards I can cope with. Sort of.

Snakes I cannot.

It’s open season for snakes again and after getting our first one near the house last week, and two more in quick succession nearby, I was left feeling violated and traumatised.

Yet also relieved.

Because before that first encounter, I was walking around like a reformed drug addict craving a fix. I didn’t want to see one. And yet I so desperately needed to see one, to remind myself that the world wouldn’t suddenly spin off orbit when I did. It didn’t need to be a big one, and it didn’t need to be close by, but just a teeny, tiny, little one, just casually sunning itself out on the road, off in the distance, a million miles away. Just to take the edge off, you know? That would have been fine.

The fear of the unknown was almost paralysing. I was avoiding being outside, just to avoid the possibility of my first run in. And then, knowing how the universe works in weird ways, I was beginning to contemplate wearing my boots inside – just in case, you know, the universe might have been thinking, ‘If she doesn’t come to the snake, we’ll bring the snake to her.’

I was pretty much convinced all the snakes in the general vicinity were plotting my demise. If not by venomous strike, then by slowly turning me into a raving, paranoid, shaking mess of a crazy person.

In the end my amazingly brave mother was there to save the day, while I ran around with my eyes shut, practicing deep breathing exercises. And by deep breathing exercises, I mean hyperventilating between cuss words, obviously.

And now the encroaching wildlife has moved into insect mode. Flies are a given as we move into summer. But this season we’re experiencing another insect en masse for the very first time.

When we first moved into Burragan I remember cleaning out window sills that looked like this:

We thought this must have been what 30 years’ worth of unclean window sills must have looked like. Turns out that could have just been one week’s worth. Because MOTH PLAGUE.

That’s right people. While you enjoy your quiet Thursday night dinner in relative peace this evening, ST and I will be dining with 3,000 sets of moth eyes beaming down at us from the ceiling. Of every. Single. Room.

I’m not quite sure what to make of it all. Especially when you’re halfway through a cup of coffee and then discover a moth head floating around in it, just millimetres from your lips. *Pithhh, uggghh, sppluugh*

But like usual, I will take it on as a challenge. Just like the sheep, the snakes, the frogs, the pigs, the foxes, and the mice… oh, sweet Lord, the mice… now they were a real welcome to the jungle. But I’ll save that one for another time.

(EDIT NOTE: So it turns out attempting to take photos of the moths after dark is not the best idea in the world. Given the need for flash photography, and the whole moths being attracted to light thing...the squeals were chilling.)