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Mother Nature’s greatest ally is the Farmer

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Mother Nature's greatest ally is the Farmer. Through devastating drought, violent fires, and flood storms the relationship of the enviroment is never felt more closely than if you farm
Marlene Brewer, Her farm Allambie. Mother Nature's greatest ally is the Farmer. Through devastating drought, violent fires, and flood storms the relationship of the enviroment is never felt more closely than if you farm. Image from The Land Newspaper.

Mother Nature’s greatest ally is the Farmer. Through devastating drought, violent fires, and flood storms the relationship of the enviroment is never felt more closely than if you farm. Built on resilience and management practices to support the land we nuture.

The Drought

I think back to 2017-20 and faced with a drought that was devastating financially, physically on those enduring it, but also, devastating to the land, the stock, the ecosystems, flora and fauna.

Forced decisions being made that were seeing farmers lose their generational farms because their finances, savings, nest eggs, retirment funds were exhausted. Their livelihoods sold out at rock bottom prices all because it didn’t rain.

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Good Ol’ Mother Nature’s reminding us just who runs the show.

Drought at its worst in December 2019

The Fires

Then we were hit by fires. Not in our area to the extent of others, but none the less, present around us. Properties were burning. I had one reach my boundary fences. The thick smoke haze. The stress of moving weak drough stock and the inability to secure fodder because of the drought to feed fire stricken stock, the prices of that fodder.

 I guess the benefit of the drought to the fire season was reduced fuel build up. Terrifying was thinking, “if it got into some of the state forest around me it would burn for weeks.” But generally there was nothing to burn.

The Rain

Then thankfully 2020 brought the rain. It rained and rained and rained. It had to come because that’s how droughts are broken. So, as farmers we were expecting it, we didnt know when it would come.

But did we expect the destruction of what these 3 events consecutively contributed to?

We listened to “unprecedented event cycle” thrown around.

In my 35 years of living here, on my farm in the Bingara district, I have never known the destruction like I saw.

This is a little gully normally void of water except in wet weather events

What’s ahead

I have 2 delightfully, beautiful creeks running through home. Home to turtles, fish and frogs and it just didn’t support my stock it supported the natives and wildlife that co exists.

I remember taking a ride out the back to the Reedy Creek after 110mm of rain followed up by another 100+ mm, and I could not believe the sight presented to me.

A creek that in this devastating drought did not have water. A first-time event. No water holes. Native animals littered the banks in places and remained there as skeletons to remind me how dry it was. No fish, no frogs and the turtle shells were up turned everywhere. The smell was dead and decaying.

The Reedy Creek  would normally run about 20 meters wide in places in a good season. This day it was was in full flow with a width of about 80 meters, bank to bank. It reminded me of the Gwydir in flow! We would hear about the flooding down stream in the days ahead.

So much water lost in such a significant wet weather event

The solar bore normally out of the way of previous flows was well into the rising water- level.

The mud and debris in the flow was extraordinary.  So many She Oaks had died in the drought. Hundreds that lined about 10 km of creek. I watched them fade away in the drought. If you know anything about She Oaks you know how very well rooted they are in the soil if you attempt to push them out.

Not a dead tree was standing in my view. The noise of the rushing water in places where it was forced into narrow spaces was frightening. The landscape of the well-known creek had physically changed. It felt foreign to a familiar gaze.

My recent ride out there, post the “event’, gave me pause to reflect. I hadn’t moved stock into those paddocks for 2 years. Firstly I didn’t have the stock. The fences had to be replaced. The flood gates repaired. Water pipes pulled out of the ground fixed, tanks and troughs were relocated.

So much top soil lost into the flow, so much water uncaptured and after a drought I firmly believe every farmer is thinking strategies to capture more water.

Water is such a force in these circumstances. Banks of dams would break because the run off is so torrential out of the hills. Mud slides and the amount of rock that the water was able to move is astounding.

I thought, ‘Well, it cleaned the creek up. No more dead trees.’

 But, I have ‘beaver walls’ as I term them, barricading the creek on the sides. Timber stacked against the surviving trees taller than me. Sand has gone and there lays bare rock.

No, it hasn’t cleaned up the creek, the job is enormous to return it to its beautiful vista. It did uproot the dead trees and now there lays an enormous fire fuel for the hot summer season approaching.

The structure of the creek and the new lay of its winding flow has changed. I wonder how many times it has changed like this in the past?

Fence posts that have been in flood gates for over 100 years and served well in the past to strain from, have gone and we progressively lay the new posts in place, this time steel and cemented in.

Gwydir in Flood down stream of Keera Hills .

The Cycle of Life

But the greatest thing I observed is the regeneration around the creek. The tadpoles, the small fish and the turtles. How did they return?

 Fresh green grass lining the banks for the stock and the natives. How did it seed and take root when there was little but rock left in places?

 Possums building in dead timber stumps where the trees that could not withstand the water force snapped off. Galahs and parrots nesting in the trees around the creek. Lizards, Water Dragons and snakes thriving on the banks. The wattle trees blooming and the bush clematis in full show. Tree orchids hanging heavy in eucalypts and iron bark trees. The trees that remained standing with new shoots and branches.

Mother Nature is certainly a force. In all things balanced as is the laws of Newton, “what goes up must come down”, the law of “cause and effect”and “a positive is equaled by a negative.”

Mother Nature’s Balancing Act

Mother Nature balances it all out, so we have no alternative but to get out of her way.

We must manage what we can as farmers and as eco-friendly participants of the industry we support. As a Farmer, of no political persuasion currently, I am the Carer of the land I have the privilege to live on. I am here to help mother nature rectify the balance and grow an industry that supports the Nation.

 I do not inhibit her need to change and warn us how we must care for our land.

Climate Change, whether hyped up truth or fickle fallacy, as a Farmer we have to acknowledge the science and the potential of what lays ahead as extreme weather patterns are predicted. We do this because we plan for the next ‘event.’

I doesn’t mean I let the scrub take over the precious grazing land. It means I put in place strategies to improve the land and control the unwanted species, flora and fauna. It means a plan to burn out the dead timber and reduce the unwanted fire risk, reducing the fire threat to the fauna and stock. This will regenerate the creek to return to a beautiful useable vista.

It means we do plan to capture, hold and traverse water away from  the creeks when flooding in surplus.

 There is a balance between Mother Nature and Me that I respect as a Farmer.

The Farmer, in the power of Mother Nature’s worst and finest, is her greatest ally. No doubt we will face some pretty big events in her future.

Note:

This is a personal account and my opinion. I am not implying others do differently or should do the same. I’d love to share your thoughts and can be contacted here at editor@bingaramagazine.com.au. Marlene Brewer

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