Our seasons have been delayed. A long, hot, dry, dusty summer has given way to a long, hot, dry, dusty autumn. A strange autumn, with no rain until the very last few days. It’s been tough here at White Stone Farm, with our dams drying and plants dying, surrounded by this brown landscape. We’re lucky though, ours is a mere hobby compared to the ancestral tracts of land from which many farmers must carve out their entire livelihoods throughout rural Australia. For them the prolonged dry weather has been most difficult, with feed prices sky-high, crops failing and livestock going hungry on the barren ground. When food comes so readily from supermarkets and seems so abundant, we can easily forget the physical and emotional hardships it takes to get it to our plate.
The White Stone Farm herbivores tend not to stray far from their meal during those energy taxing dry days and the prolonged dry weather has cost us more in feed than we had anticipated.
Our hay bales for growing, so dutifully and painstakingly collected in summer and readied for the autumn rains have stood dry. Our grand plans to have them soak up the autumn rain in preparation for garlic planting stood unfulfilled. We emptied the last of the dam water trying to give them some moisture so that the first stage of decomposition could take place.
We seem to be caught within a rain shadow of a rain shadow. Clunes is reputedly quite dry and then where we are located just north of the town seems to be further shadowed by Mount Beckworth. With our beautiful view of the surrounding volcanic landscape, we watch rain storms gather and scud across the skies beyond our boundaries. We’re jealous to hear about the torrential rain in Ballarat, or a deluge in Melbourne. But no amount of rain dances have brought them our way…
And then, in the final week of autumn, Mother Nature finally helped out in our dry, parched world. The rains we were eagerly waiting on and hoping for so that we could plant our garlic finally arrived, with the skies opening up to a brief deluge to moisten the ground and refresh the landscape. Our first 10mls was cause for celebration. Maybe that last rain dance did work.
The light flush of green on the landscape is now taking hold, as grasses and plants rise forth out of the dusty, bare ground. Gumboots are now out in force to combat the muddy clay and numerous puddles. The sodden ground is slippery and you can just about hear the plants taking a big long draught of water before it disappears down the large cracks that opened up the clay during the dry!
All too quickly, the brief autumn rains and warm sunshine are giving way to winter. The chill is in the air and winter is coming. Frosts are starting and words like “brrr…minus 2 degrees this morning” have returned to our vocabulary. The type of weather that you can pull out all those lovely, warm jumpers, long socks, scarves, beanies and gloves, get out your favourite long-johns and cosy up to the fire with a good book and a bowl of steaming vegetable soup whilst the night cools down or the rain beats down outside. Sunset is early and night falls quickly, with us needing to dash home from work to lock up the chooks. No detours allowed as we race to beat the setting sun and the prowling foxes and get our chicken girls safely to bed.
But it does allow us long luxurious time indoors as the early darkness closes in, time to read good books to relax and inspire, spin llama wool, weave new creations, discuss more sustainability ideas that we want to implement or go over our permaculture designs and house renovations that we have planned for the warmer months to come.
Already the garlic is sprouting, the chickens are going through their moult (although some have stoically continued to lay eggs in the colder weather – it must be all the lovely extra food we are giving them!) and the bugs are returning to the damp places beneath rocks and logs. It’s becoming a chicken paradise again with lots of green pick to enjoy and protein galore as worms and bugs return near the surface of the moist soil.
The herbivores are also enjoying the greenery and Jess and the llamas are full of new life that comes with the energy hit of delicious, fresh grass. After such a protracted, hot and dry few months, it is certainly nice to look out over a carpet of green that now adorns the landscape and appreciate Mother Nature’s watery gift of goodness from the clouds above.