Welcoming Autumn

The golden hues of autumn grasses against grey skies.

A run of hot, humid days accompanied by thunderstorms has been the norm for most of March. A wetter than usual winter and spring created unprecedented grass growth. Good news for those who had hay to cut and bale, but for others on smaller acreage like ourselves, keeping on top of the mowing is a constant task. When there was minimal rainfall, grass growth was a lot slower. But seeing our dams full and household tanks almost at capacity, we are not complaining.

We had hot and dry conditions for our annual campdraft just gone, which made it a top weekend for competitors and spectators alike. Being on the committee kept me busy with various activities over the two days. I will do a separate post on the Australian equestrian sport of campdrafting and share some photos.

With its still calm weather conditions, autumn also marks a period of planned burn-offs in our high country. While this is designed to reduce the fuel load in the bush and mountain areas, the smoke haze can make one feel like they are living in an ashtray. It has been a long time since I have hung out in a smokey journo’s bar. I used to go home and hang my good jacket on the clothesline to get rid of the smell. I couldn’t afford to pay for the dry cleaners too often!

However, the smoke haze does provide some superb sunset photo opportunities. Another night we saw this large, red glow in the distance due to a burn-off in some stubble that flared up. Earlier this week, a storm and some rain cleared the air. Another photo opportunity.

This morning was the coolest start for several months, but it has been a lovely warm, sunny day. One can sense a change in the seasons and see the changes in the leaves of grapevines and various trees. Daylight saving is due to end the first weekend in April, which will see a return to being lighter early in the morning and becoming dark much sooner in the late afternoon.

On one side of the world, spring is bursting forth while here we prepare for the coming winter months. That includes sourcing more fire food and putting away the summer clothes. As restrictions and lockdowns disappear and we are told we need to learn to live with COVID, one dares to dream of travelling to warmer climes and visiting friends and family over the coming weeks.

Late afternoon and suddenly, the smoke haze returns, clinging to the sides of the valleys. I better close windows and doors to keep the smell out and rescue the washing from outside before it absorbs the smokey aroma. Happy weekend everyone.

Beyond the smoky haze

Sunset through the smoke haze
Nearby hills are obscured by thick smoke haze

Summer in Australia includes the Christmas and New Year celebrations followed by fun filled relaxing holidays by the beach or camping in the bush. Boating, fishing and water-skiing are popular on large lakes and rivers. December and January have marked a period of heartache and devastation as fires raged across the country with NSW, Victoria and South Australia receiving the brunt of the damage. Many people’s holiday plans have been impacted by the closure of our national and state parks by authorities where there are fires and significant threat to life. There was the mass exodus of holidaymakers through our town when the evacuation order was made. Now it is strangely quiet and many local businesses are suffering from loss of income from the impact of the fires. Most of Victoria and NSW has been shrouded in smoke for several days with reports of smoke haze in New Zealand and South America.

We have been fortunate to only be subjected to smoke haze when so many have suffered lost of lives, homes, livelihoods, massive stock losses and trauma elsewhere. But it has been difficult to escape the wall-to-wall coverage of the fires and the social media frenzy without feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Situations like this also seems to bring out the best and the worse in humans. Stories of unsung heroes and the compassion for others has been uplifting. Another sad aspect of our bushfires is the huge loss of our native flora and fauna.

We continue to ensure on the hot days that there are plenty of water bowls around the house for all the different birds that visit us ranging from the tiny finches through to the larger magpies. Bolly(my husband) has been working extremely hard clearing any fallen leaves and branches from around our property. The hot windy days are nuisance because you have to clear up all over again! We have complied a “what to do in a fire” situation book of instructions and photos for us to refer to and for any house sitters or visitors. We have a fire-fighting pump near our dam and sprinklers in our lawn if needed. While we don’t feel in any particular danger being in cleared farming land there is still the risk of grassfires and lightening strikes hitting paddock trees.

A most welcome cool change overnight has brought 7ml of rain followed by clear, blue skies, this morning. One has to be optimistic if we are to support one another and look after our mates to get through the tough times.