I love a Sunburnt Country: 2015/16 edition, on last page

This morning, the music of my heart:

While you are still freezing, and the Thames is flooding in the UK, we are still battling rages bushfires. You may have heard about some fires that have been burning for a while in South Australia and around Victoria. The amount of land affected is now (to my mind at least) quite alarming, and in victoria the coal mining/electricity production region is threatened, as well as the northern suburbs of Melbourne (the State's capital). marksierra should be safe, but perhaps a bit smokey!!

I learnt yesterday that the small townships and suburbs on the route I'd drive in, from Howlong where we used to live, to Melbourne - Kalkallo, Donnybrook and around there; Kilmore, an old farming and orchard area - were affected by the fires. Effectively, that's Melbourne's outskirts; there's almost no break in the housing and the time to get to the centre of the city is relatively quick.

At one stage, some of the places on Adelaide's outer edges were similarly affected (Adelaide is in South Australia - not only great farming land but also prime wine-producing territory)


This was referred to in the link in the post above.
In our north, at the top of the state in which I live, the Yorke Peninsula, there's been some welcome rain. Record-breaking in fact - levels not seen since 1918. Trouble is, the rain's not stopping.

I don't have the details for where I'm currently living, however where I used to live, at the foot of the Aussie Alps (the Snowy Mountains, which is our ski region) has just had its hottest year on record. This is the news article from today's regional newspaper

Meantime, we're still blazing hot, albeit with some barely cooler nights. The sun has shifted so sunrise is later, sunset is earlier and it doesn't seem quite as unbearable even though the temperatures and humidity are almost the same as a month ago. What has changed is that over the past week we've had a few days of cloud and some rain, and that changes our tolerance, and also the breeze factor. Farmers haven't had a break though: hot as Hades, dry as dust and nowhere near enough moisture for a lizard to spit...

And now: flash flooding!
As I wrote earlier in the week/over the weekend, it's of finally Autumn here in Oz now. The end of March/Easter will often herald a Break: more sun if it's been wet, more rain if it's been dry, more something of what you haven't had.

The last months have been incredibly hot, stuffy, sticky, dry, dusty, useless forecasts of spotty splotches of rain that drift past and go to sea...and at 3this morning with an almighty clap of thunder and lightning, the heavens parted... Again this evening, falling dark several hours too early and rendering roads impassable.

Meant to rain tomorrow. If I'm really lucky, auditor will have to call off Thursday's vist....! :-D

I'm not sure how much weather, as weather, contributed to it: I'm really worried about the Seattle area mud slide. I have friends around there, and have their contact details...so sad for the families affected. How do you rebuild after that??

We just had a wild windy snow storm from about 5am to now on the south shore of MA. Fierce!

I thought you were basically over your snow? It must surely be late, given the garden talk... You guys OK?

The roads cleared and everything began to melt Thursday morning. It was a violent storm, a winter hurricane. Trees are still blowing around two days later. We're in New England...Cape Cod, to be precise.

Sheesh - glad you're all OK. My Washington State friend is apparently on the other side of the mud slide area, and safe - made a point of contacting our 'ringleader' here to let her know all family and friends are in safe zones.

Here, our problem isn't so much the tropical and sudden downpour that lasted the better part of 2 days (almost 100mm in 40 mins at one place; close to 400mm in 24 hours over much of the State, and for our region yesterday over 102mm), it's the debris in the rushing run-off. Think of your violent mini storm-cells; make them pretty big and longer. Add the constant humidity and high temps (it's not quite 5 am now and still 24 degrees C at 100% humidity but no rain for several hours). Horrible, madness-induing weather. And whole trees drifting down guttes and streams/canals into the surf beaches, where swimmers and surfers have to watch for the hidden flotsam or incur serious injury.

My brother in Byron Bay reports that there's been so much rain, his hilltop is awash. BUT somehow the in-ground water tanks missed getting the rain, and are still almost empty.

Do the in-ground water tanks usually store rain? Why are they not? Has underbrush impeded runoff?

Where he is, he can't get town water, depends on buying bulk water (in huge agricultural style tanker lots), or depends on rainwater to refill them. We're in drought, there hasn't been enough rain for a couple of years to keep those tanks full: he has 3 or 4 and they gravity-feed the house and office for all water use for months.

So the ground is too dry for the runoff to seep in? Sometimes when there's been drought, the ground us just too dry for rain to do anything but pool and flow around on top of it. Can he put some tanks above the ground to catch the water? (I am sure he has thought of that more than once.) Did you say it's drill raining there? If the climate changes to any extent, maybe if they plant some trees and shrubs, they'd retain moisture better in the soil, just holding on to whatever topsoil us there?

Hi Alice. Have you been to Australia? Better yet, have you been to Byron Bay? My brother lives on top of Lennox Head, i.e. On top of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, degraded down to rock with very little soil cover. Very few trees. With very little rain, there's no runoff, and almost nothing for groundwater to seep into.

His house and office are on what we call 'acreage', that is, land that is the size of a small farm. Above-ground tanks that are large enough aren't legal; you either dig out a dam (and the government owns the water rights, because it's water open to the sky) or sink in big underground tanks, or try to tap an artesian bore if you're lucky to have artesian water on your property. The govt owns the water rights to your rivers, streams, wells, dams, bores and rainwater. You get to buy back some of it, the rest you hold in trust for the nation. This IS the driest continent on earth.

The current drought is about 10yrs long.

No I haven't been to Australia. Just a question...if there's "no runoff" does all rainwater go into these tanks and lakes? (I am sure soils and seepage are different in different areas.) please understand, I am just asking not telling!

Yep, I know you're asking oh oh
There's no run-off because the soil quality is so poor, and so much topsoil has either blown away or degraded so there's almost bare rock, or there's just too little rain. I mean, we're talking maybe six inches worth for an entire year. The tanks we're talking about last the household for around six months, each tank.

So here's the irony: they're on the edge of old-growth rainforest, on dairy farming land that's been converted to hobby farms and acreage living. You might be able to agist some horses but there's little actual pasture. As he's on top of the mountain, the slope is so steep, he drives the ride-on mower at a 45degree angle and we're too scared it will roll on top of him...he couldn't possibly mow any other way, and there are deadly snakes so he can't not mow.

People come to the area for the surfing, the hippie lifestyle, the spectacular views, the remnant rainforest; they don't see the erosion, the dryness, the destruction that 'progress' has made. When my brother planted his citrus and nut trees on the edge of the property he had to truck in topsoil that would serve both the saplings and the mature trees, and we're talking about 100 trees here, I think. The boundary is huge. From the kitchen, you can barely see the trees. That soil had to be wheelbarrowed into place, the slope's so steep. Most of it has washed off, or blown away in the past 5 years, too little moisture too keep it together and to encourage grass cover.

When I'm on the desktop I'll see if I can find a pic for you. It's not surprising that Aussies are known for discussing weather and especially rain, or the lack of it.

OK - had to get up again (D's restless legs are bad tonight; it's hard to stay asleep), so here's one quick article on this week's rain. Admittedly, it's focussed a fair way inland from where my brother is, but it's the same State and the same drought.

(audio news article)

Here's another rural news item, from last Monday; from a farming region just past my brother. The rain they're talking about totally missed him (he's up that mountain, remember? It's a weather divider - what they call a watershed)

Don't let the green fool you: everything greens up in the rain, and the fertile soil is not very deep.

Another one, from slightly south:

Australia is roughly the same size in land mass as the USA; the State of NSW would take me about a full day (including nighttime, so that's 16 hours nonstop) driving from north to south - when I moved to the Gold Coast in '09, I drove from the southern border to just over the northern border over a weekend (I had the cat with me). This drought has affected nearly the entire continent.

In contrast to the southern news stories, here's one from about 12 hours up north, in Queensland: the are where we grow sugar cane, mangos, pineapples and do deep water fishing:
This area, also in drought, gets flattened by cyclones and monsoons, and razed by sudden fires when winds capriciously turn the sugar cane fires around. (You have to burn the cane before you can harvest)

this article is from a Queensland area a little inland and half-way between Yeppoon and me. It's where we grown sweet mandarins, and huge pumpkins, graze some cattle (beef and dairy), and in some places grow peanuts. the pic gives you an idea of the soil quality and cover at my brother's place

This is a great cattle droving story, with some awesome pics!!
Eightteen thousand head of cattle, walking over 2000km, grazing as they walked from one station to the next (we call the properties 'stations' you call them 'ranches') Possibly the last great muster and drive, in the old tradition; certainly it was done in incredibly challenging conditions: the hottest summer on record and the driest drought in over a century.

Alice, you might find this interesting too. The area is whalewatching coastline; frequented by tourists who are into scuba diving, sunning and swimming with dolphins; maybe a bit of hippie living; and some hobby farmers mixed in with the real farmers in the small townships dotted around the place. Fisherfolk and traditional agriculture (mainly honey, specialised semi-tropical fruits like pineapples, melons, bananas, melons, mangoes, pawpaws etc and herbs like ginger and salad veg, plus the cattle, sugar cane etc)

Do they need teachers?

as in, you want to move here? Or as in, you think they're not doing something right?

So. Back to unusual weather reports.

Hobart, in Australia's southern island, Tasmania, has just had its hottest April day at 31 degrees C followed by a night at 26 degrees C. Hobart, the State's capital, is at the southern end of the island, closest to Antarctica and indeed, the water in its bay comes direct from the polar region. 31 degrees C is almost 88 degrees F; while that doesn't sound exceptionally hot you need to remember that we often say Tasmania is the closest place we have to the UK in climate. It's not often you'd get such temperatures in summer, let alone this close to Easter (i.e. in Autumn)

joanne said:

as in, you want to move here? Or as in, you think they're not doing something right?

I think they're not doing something right? Not sure why you think that.

I meant, it sounds lovely. I'd like to move there! (Can't afford to, probably.)

Wasn't sure if the question related to your earlier suggestion on soil improvement. oh oh
We can always do with good teachers, but frankly, am not sure if you'd want to come over just now: our State government is not-so-vaguely far-right wing, and our federal government is just plain totalitarian. We're headed for fascism.

I was just curious about drought/runoff/rains, and why rains weren't penetrating into the underground tanks, asking questions to try to "get my (poor) mind around it."

Sorry to hear about the fascism. Not a good system, that!

Queensland's always been like the Texas of Australia, and not really in a good way. Pity, because it's got some of the loveliest people and the most wonderful scenery. But it's like the place attracts political weirdos who know how to enchant mindless fools into voting for them and then not holding them to account. We're living in a parallel universe, a bit like the Fringe version of Australia... I expect to drive to work and see sections of the landscape blocked off in blocks of amber with people trapped inside...

Re teaching in Qld: this is where you'd check.

Of course, you'd have to have your qualifications recognised for Australian standards; Immigration can help you with that: (LMB stands for Locked Mail Bag. It really is a huge bag, and it's locked with a massive padlock)

Overseas Qualifications Unit
LMB 527
Brisbane Qld 4001
Email: skillsrecognition@deta.qld.gov.au
Website: Queensland government

Add teaching in Victoria to your bucket list, too, if you like ..


Better wineries, better arts scene, some stunning scenery, astounding historical sites of all kinds...Victoria's fun. And marksierra's there!

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