The Tree

The Weekly Prompts Photo Challenge: The Tree
The Ragtag Daily Prompt Saturday: Joy
Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Item with two M’s

I was in a dilemma. Should I go down to the bottom part of my property and see what had happened there with the fire. I am glad I did as I found somethings that had survived and gave my joy, one of which was the big Tallowwood tree. You would need three or four people encircling the tree, arms outstretched and hands touching to gauge it’s size. The tree is about forty meters tall.

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I know it’s not strictly black and white but the burnt forest has a bit of a sepia tone about it.

 

The day Durranbah burned

It has taken me a bit of time to compile and write. This is a long read so I hope you can get to the end. I realise that you probably are wondering what is Duranbah? Here is the front gate to Durranbah which is the name of my property.
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When you drive down my road here is the sign that greets you to let you know you are at your destination.IMG_2114

Let me take you back a while. OK to go back around three years when the last of the big rains happened. These rains are quite the norm for here. You can set you calendar by the storm season. Come October the dry season breaks and the rains commence and continue until March to May and sometimes June can have a wet year.

Back then the lack of rain three years ago wasn’t such a big thing. We often have some dry early Summers and come February or March, the rains come. March is usually the best time to start planting trees and other environmental restoration projects as the rain comes and the deep soil moisture assists in maintaining the plantings over the usually dry Winters. This is the same for a household garden which gets established and flourishes in Spring. But I digress as this is to establish a bit of the climatic changes that has happened over the past three years.

In August, the fires started. In September more fires started to occur. And then in October I was given word that fallen power lines had started a fire a few kilometers away and the current winds wasn’t bringing the fire to here but to be ready just in case. That evening the Rural Fire Service (RFS) did a back burn along the road. By November the fires had almost surrounded my place.

Things have never gotten any better and I have been on fire watch  as November carried on. Over this time there has been heavy smoke throughout the atmosphere and by November I had been breathing smoke for over a month.

Throughout the end of the month, the helicopters had started, sometimes flying over my house as the conveyed water from water sources to fires nearby.

The sunsets became surreal.
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As did the sunrisessun_smoke_fire_named_home_jackadgery_nov 2019

Sometimes the sunsets were just total orange with a glow spot where the sun was.
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Here we are at my place. There was a smokey haze. Yes I live in the bush or in a forest for my OS readers. Due to the drought over the past three years the Eucalypts are under stress and their defense mechanism is to drop leaves and branches. I commenced trying to minimise the effects of the leaves on the ground but where do I put what I rake up?
There is a shed on the left, my home in the middle and a playhouse I built for my girls on the left. Other sheds and infrastructure is hidden behind the house.
front drive_durranbah_blog_fire_post_nov 2019
This is what my place looks like from the front gate. More photos of this view will follow.front bush_durranbah_blog_fire_post_nov 2019
Looking down the power line clearing to the house next door when the smoke was a constant in my life. More photos of this view will follow.front powerline_durranbah_blog_fire_post_nov 2019

Here is what I call the house dam. This is where I get water for my gardens and around the house. I have stopped pumping from here months ago but do have a header tank which gravity feeds back down the hill so I don’t have to start the pump when I have to water the garden. The dam has never been this low since it was built around 30 years ago. A lack of rainfall over the past three years has contributed to this dilemma especially over the past two years.
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The sounds and sights of helicopters has been a constant in my life over three months. These wonderful pilots just go back and forth delivering water to the fire front, sometimes over my home.helicopter_water_close_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
Some evenings the smoke is quite visible as it drifts over my place blown by strong westerly winds.smoke_sky_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
In early December the sunsets started to become much redder which did not bode well.sunset_red_trees_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
At the start of December the large Kaloe Mountain Trail fire jumped the Gwydir Highway during very strong westerly winds. Once the fire was on my side of the highway, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the fire made it’s way here. When the double helicopters were flying overhead I knew that it wouldn’t be long before it was here.helicopters_two_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
On Friday the 6th December I was talking to my mate Wayne on the phone and I said that that smoke doesn’t look good and I would have to go and repack my car with my stuff just in case. The RFS came down the street and advised everyone it was almost time to go. I waited as long as I could and I had a few phone calls where everyone told me to go. The neighbours were heading out so I joined in and started to go out along road, my escape plan, to Copmanhurst Pub.smoke_house_close_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
On the way I looked back and saw the huge plume of smoke that had probably engulfed my place already. My daughter works in the kitchen at the pub so I went back to her place for the night. Some of the neighbours across the road stayed and I got some updates from them. I didn’t know whether I still had a home as I drove back on Saturday morning.smoke_lilydale_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
As I drove down the road I could see the rook of my house and sheds through the trees. I came down the drive and saw the blacked landscape either side of the driveand around the huseplayhouse_shed_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
Looking along the power lines to the neighbours placepowerline view_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019

Even in the afternoon logs and stumps were still alight and a RFS truck kept patrol along the road.fire truck_trees_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
The ever present helicopters were still controlling fires that were still burning.helicopter_water_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
The house dam. The RFS blokes who were here made sure my poly pipes didn’t burn so I still have water to the house garden from the header tanks.dam_burnt_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
The smoke is so heavy I was unable to get out and have a good look around. All the next few days trees could be heard crashing down.driveway_smoke_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019

This is a close as I have been to the lower part of my property. My place is the unburnt piece of ground under the power lines with the bush burnt either side. The tyre track are the RFS trucks and the electricity company vehicles trying restore the power on the place next door. I was without power and phone for almost 48 hours.
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A few days later the helicopters were heading over my place and towards the rear of the properties across the road as the wind fanned the flames once more.helicopter_close_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
One helicopter sounded a siren as I was heading to a pile of sticks that were still burning near the unburnt patch around my house. I stopped and then whoosh a torrent of water was delivered which quelled the fire and wet the area around so the fire couldn’t spread.helicopters_water_bomb_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
This big Ironbark log has been burning non-stop until this afternoon when a fire truck came along and put it out as a southerly wind had blown up which could have sent embers across the road towards the unburnt properties.  ironbark log_burning_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
Some days the smoke was unbearable. My health has been affected by the smoke.smoke_powerlines_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
The only infrastructure causality, a small aluminum garden shed that had a few things stored, tools that I only occasionally used plus some building materials, windows etc.tin_shed_burnt_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
Most of my place looks like this.property_view1_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
A tree across the track that stopped me from going further. A lot of the trees are still unstable so it will be a while before I can go back into the forest.property_view2_fallen tree_track_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019
This is what I see from my office.property_view3_durranbah_blog_fire_post_dec 2019

This fire has burnt areas of my place that have never have been burnt so furiously in the past. Three years of a lack of substantial rain has led to no moisture in the soil, under logs and in the leaf litter on the forest floor. The heat that was generated has burnt everything. The logs that were home to a multitude of animals and insects have gone. The big hollow log where the Dingo had her pups is gone. The old stump that had the notches where the tree fellers put the boards and stood and chopped with axes is gone. The grass trees that were over two meters tall hundreds of years old are gone.

When I went out to cut firewood earlier this year I could see through the forest as the understory had almost gone with the drought. I could see parts of the landscape that I could never see. Now even that has gone and I can see through to other sides of gullies that I never could. In those gullies rainforest species were coming back.

I hope many of the animals and birds moved across the road to safety. I have many different birds around the garden which is one of my only pleasures. I have bough specialised food for the Wallabies but am yet to see the Betongs or Bandicoots and other small mammals.

The land will recover but I will never again see it as wonderful as I have in the over thirty years I have lived here and nurtured this land.

I still cry for my country.

Sights, smells and sounds of fire

The air is thick
with smoke
vision a grey white haze
the fires smell
invades the house
and nostrils
sounds of helicopters
startle the birds
bucket swinging
it flies overhead
water it cries
a blessed relief

helicopter_bucket_fires_named_home_jackadgery_nov 2019

Weekly word prompt: Giving thanks

 

Fire – my story

Debbies One Word Sunday: Fire

What a topic to pick Debbie!!! This is so much my life at the moment and has been for over four week. I have already posted some stories of the fires that surround me at the moment.
Some days the smoke is so thick, I cannot see more that 30 meters. Those days are spent inside. My chest is starting to hurt, my eyes are constantly sore and yesterday I had a sore throat.
The heat of the day doesn’t help either. One day last week it was 40C which isn’t usual for this time of year. Most days last week were in the low to high 30’s. The high daily temperatures combined with strong winds that seem to turn up most days makes for uncomfortable living.
Over the past two years the amount of rainfall has been a quarter of what I usually have here. This big dry has also exacerbated conditions. When there is a lack of rain, the eucalypt trees drop leaves and branches as a survival technique. The forest floor has a lot of leaves and dead wood. Normally that isn’t a problem as the high rainfall helps break down the vegetation into humus which is full of microscopic life as well as insects and worms.
The ground is dry under the leaves and is being baked by the hot sun. The UV rating today was extreme.
Together with my neighbours, we worked with the Rural Fire Service (RFS) to have a hazard reduction burn on our properties this Winter to prepare for Summer as the RFS thought that there would be a dangerous fire season this year. This Winter wasn’t the time to burn as we didn’t have many cool days and conditions weren’t right as assessed by the RFS.
The fire season is usually late November to March. The first fire to threaten our small community of properties happened early October. This post is a quick story of that Fire
An earlier fire story the month before but didn’t really affect my place.
The fires continued to burn this fire in early November started more concern for me and my property and has been continually burning since then.
Every afternoon when the westerly wind blows up I am scanning the skies for signs of smoke and as the day darkens I am  on watch in case embers are blowing ahead of the fire. The fire is about 15kms away.
I have my car packed with things I want to save and other stuff is handy to grab if the call comes through to evacuate.
I do live in the bush, or forest for my overseas readers/friends, I am aware of the potential hazards. Because it has been so dry my dam I use to water the garden hasn’t filled and there is a small amount of water that I am saving in case I need it to put out small fires.
My garden only gets small amounts of water to keep some of it alive. The Bangalow palms whose fronds shade the house and keep it cool in Summer are either dead or dying. Of the 10 or so in the gardens around the house, two are still alive. The small Lilli Pilli trees are dying, other Australian native plants are struggling. Every bit of water gets recycled and used to keep plants alive.
The sky has been so eerie and the days don’t have shadows or sunlight, just a orange glow.
The only thing to release me from this awful situation is rain. So far these fires statewide have burnt over one million hectares, only 4 deaths so far thank goodness, over 350 homes burnt and thousands of out-building burnt. I have friends who have lost their homes.
As I write at 6pm Sunday, I am watching the trees sway about in the wind dropping more leaves. There has been rain in the area, mainly to the south and north, but so far not here.
I am hoping……
PS   Don’t worry about me I am safe and prepared. I have been here for quite a while and have been through many fires before. I used to be the local RFS Deputy Captain and have a good knowledge of fire behaviour on my property and neighbouring properties.

 

 

 

Stopping for a drink

I have always had bird baths place around my garden. There are big ones, shallow ones and small ones that the birds come to every day for a drink or a quick splash. I also have a number of containers on the ground and tucked into spots in the garden for the animals that may like a drink, mainly small animals. I fill containers daily in this long drought I am currently experiencing.

One such container is on the garden seat where Satin Bowerbirds like to get a drink. Yesterday I was in the kitchen and looked out of the window and to my surprise a Red-necked Wallaby was having a drink. Wallabies normally drink from the dam. I have never seen a Wallaby drink from the containers in the garden before. She must have been thirsty.

red-necked wallaby_female_drinking_named_home_jackadgery_nov 2019
He mate was keeping watch nearbyred-necked wallaby_male_watching_named_home_jackadgery_nov 2019

You may wonder about the weird colour in the photos. The smoke from the nearby bushfires is quite thick and the sunshine is quite coloured.  Shadows are muted. As you can see there eucalypt trees have dropped their leaves to try and save themselves in this  drought. The Sun certainly highlights the dead leaves. A lot of these leaves are on the road which have been raked away from buildings. The bush where I live is very dry. The only thing that will stop these fires is rain.

I am keeping safe and watchful. The Rural Fire Service is doing a great job keeping everyone safe.

Also for LMP – Photo Adventure – Animals

 

Sunsets

The Weekly Prompts Photo Challenge: Not the Norm

Some of the sunsets over the past few weeks are definitely “not the norm,” a mixture of dust from the farms out west whipped up by strong winds and smoke from the twenty or so bushfires burning around my place. None very close but tomorrow and Wednesday is set to be quite a challenge. I am prepared and will go when and if I have to. I have an escape route and plan.

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