The Show Must Go On

Trees shift and sag with the hot wind. Brown and yellow leaves fall from high up in the canopy, almost as if they were imitating snow. The heat is surprising, and the only escape from the scorching sun and forceful wind is inside the house. Despite the heavy insulation, inside the house just gets warmer, and then as the day lengthens, it gets warmer inside again.

Ceiling fans continuously rotate as they provide some relief from the perspiration. Dogs have collapsed in a stupor on the floor. Their mouths are open as they pant, and perhaps they are dreaming of shedding their coats for the day?

Double glazed windows are hot to touch, despite them being shaded by a verandah. They would be even worse without the heavy duty stainless steel mesh shutters that filters the strong sunlight. Through the windows we see the plants in the garden beds wilt in the hot afternoon sun.

The previous day was beyond hot. At night the air normally cools to something reasonable. We are surrounded by tall forest, after all. But this particular day was far beyond what would considered to be normal weather. The morning began warmer than I can ever recall, except that this time the hot wind was also driven by a strong wind which blowing furnace like air from the arid centre of this hot continent.

With nothing better to do, we went to the local cafe for a coffee and a feed for breakfast. It was quiet there, and the roads were also quiet. People were tense. It wasn’t the heat that had people on edge, in fact we deal with hot days all of the time down here. No, it was the similarity to the extreme weather that occurred on Black Saturday, or the 7th February 2009. There was so much widespread destruction and loss of life due to wildfires that day. And here we were with the same conditions all over again, as it was both extremely hot and very windy.

On that sort of day, there is not much chance of stopping a fire once it gets started. During the day you try to get on with your life, but the heat saps energy, and the need to routinely check the updates on local fires in the area, simply leaves you with a background level of mild anxiety.

If there is a fire in the local area, will the winds blow the fire in your direction? What is the topography between you and the fire? Do you stay and defend your house if a fire threatens? Or, do you leave and not risk your life for something that can be replaced? Can you even understand what it means to defend a house against a wildfire? If you do leave, what do you take with you? And in what condition do you leave the property? And lastly, are you prepared to be possibly homeless?

Friday was a bad day, and all those questions were discussed, existing plans reviewed, and choices were made. It’s an ugly business, but it is part of living in rural areas in this corner of the continent. However, each year seems to bring some new and outrageous weather record. The past week has seen some very long held weather records smashed.

After two days of 44’C / 111’F (in the shade) and an overnight low of 26’C / 79’F in between them, by late on the second day, the inside of the house reached 31’C / 88’F. Even so, it still felt far cooler inside the house than the outside in the scorching heat.

Fortunately, by early evening a cool change swept in from the Southern Ocean and the outside temperature slowly dropped.

Cool change 6pm 31’C / 88’F inside the house 32’C / 90’F outside the house

The dusty, smoky, hot summer air has produced some amazing sunsets this year, and this week was no exception:

Another glorious summer sunset

Sometimes pictures can tell a better story than words, so here are some photos from that day:

Hot Dawg! Scritchy in a heat induced stupor
This patch of green is where the worm farm sewage system seeps. The wildlife enjoys fresh green pick every day of the year
This well established garden bed is wilting in the 44’C heat, but it still puts on a good show. And the trees below it have not skipped a beat
Despite the heatwaves and lack of rain since the start of the year there is still some green ground cover in the orchard. Neither these trees nor the ground cover are watered. This green is indicative of underground water and deep top soils (both of which are a result of our soil and water management efforts over the past decade)
Zucchini succumbs to the heat of the day but readily bounces back with a bit of water after the sun has gone below the horizon
Some of the corn leaves shrivelled during the hottest part of the day, but they also quickly recovered with a bit of water
The cool change brought some rain to the local area, but it completely bypassed the farm

The cool change brought no rain to the farm, although Saturday was a very cool day and that was a relief. To celebrate having survived the horror day, we took the day off any work, and simply enjoyed ourselves. We even took a short trip to a nearby bakery to purchase a lemon tart and a gourmet pie, both of which were very tasty.

Whilst on our bakery adventure, we passed many local farms. Around these parts, farmers normally run sheep or cattle in their paddocks, and the recent hot weather has not been kind to those paddocks. And often there is little in the way of shade trees for the livestock to shelter under on hot days.  And if the livestock have trouble finding shelter on a hot day, then the wildlife will be almost non-existent. In stark contrast, this place is buzzing with wildlife:

A Southern Brown Tree Frog sits on the verandah at night consuming insects attracted to the lights of the house
All year around we leave water out for the birds, kangaroos, wombats and wallabies – and they leave their calling cards in appreciation
A close up of one of the water dishes shows that the insects also enjoy a regular drink of fresh water
This is some sort of moth or butterfly that has attached itself to a timber post. When I was a kid these were seen quite regularly in the city, but now I doubt that people see them anywhere in the city
The bees love the many flowers in the garden, like this hardy oregano which is of the mint family of plants
Grasshoppers and cicadas live here, and the other day I spotted a large locus,t which was no doubt promptly consumed by one of the many birds that live here. Many years ago a plague of locusts swept through the farm, and the birds ate every single one of them. There was much rejoicing in the avian world that week
There are plenty of moths and butterflies that zip through the garden beds even in the hottest weather

Despite the heat, the show has to go on, and this week we finally finished filling up the primary firewood shed. In case anyone was wondering, it is indeed hard working bringing in the firewood for the coming winter when you are in the midst of a heatwave. But that is the time of year that the job needs to be done.

The author looks well pleased with a full shed of dry and seasoned firewood for use during the winter

In breaking produce news:

Triffid alert! This happened over only a few days
The tomato enclosure in 44’C / 111’F weather
A very tasty Santa Rosa plum
Eggplant flowers!
Are these chilli’s or capsicum’s (peppers)? We’re not sure.
Corn cobs are developing very fast
Wild rocket, fresh tomatoes and a small zucchini. A perfect addition to a lunch
The passion-fruit vines have loved the heat this summer
Beans are beginning to grow up the sapling fence around the tomato enclosure
We get a lot of olives, but are yet to work out a good recipe for their preserving. Any suggestions or recommendations?

Onto the flowers:

A beautiful bush rose which climbs through one of the garden beds
Salvia’s and geraniums make great hot weather companions
Soap wort is enjoying the heat
It is impolite to take a photo of a ladies rear, but this bee was perhaps in the wrong place at the wrong time. We grow hundreds of agapanthus flowers and they are a hardy summer staple for the bees. And they love them
A well established garden bed with a diversity of plants shakes off the heat and still produces flowers

The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 15’C (59’F). So far this year there has been 5.4mm (0.2 inches) which is slightly higher than last weeks total of 5.0mm (0.2 inches).