Well it has been an eventful few months in our world. Our property was impacted by the Tingha Plateau bushfire in February after over a year dealing with ongoing and severe drought conditions previously. Our whole property was burnt, all of our fences, our garden and a shed were destroyed and some of our Khaki Campbell ducks perished.
Our house caught alight but was quickly extinguished and saved by our neighbour. A corner of our vegetable garden and our bird aviaries miraculously remained unscathed which was SO good. Our much loved pet highland cow was seen sheltering her calf in a corner of the fence as the fire passed and they both made it through unscathed other than some singed hair. Fortunately for us we had made the very difficult decision to get rid of all our sheep only the week before due to the drought and the lack of feed going into winter with out summer rain. Miracles happen!
We can not emphasise enough the importance of having a fire plan and reviewing your insurance cover regularly.
We made the decision to leave with the apocalyptic weather and fire conditions predicted which meant we were not here to protect our property. This decision to stay or leave can have a huge impact on how your property survives but we realised we were unprepared for a fire of this size and speed and in conditions that created the "perfect storm" and as a result leaving was the best option.
This has been an amazing experience and we are learning a lot through the recovery, redesigning and rebuilding process.
We are grateful we did not delay the decision to destock our sheep as it was tempting to wait and see if we got any rain in February. Hope is not a strategy. Make drought decisions based on the information you have at the time and act on them!
Emotionally the experience feels like you are a pendulum swinging between devastation and gratitude. We are SO grateful for the locals who stayed while so many of us left and who helped save homes like ours. Grateful to the fire crews who travelled in from all over to assist with the efforts to contain the fire. We can experience devastation seeing things we have been developing over the last 15 years destroyed by the fire in a matter of minutes and to see so many homes in our neighbourhood destroyed. It has been important to acknowledge all the feelings and not to put on a brave face and pretend that all is well. This helps us reach a place of acceptance with regards to what has happened. Acceptance and realising that it is what it is! Nothing we can do will change it so we accept it and move on with gratitude for what we still have.
Regenerative agriculture gives you tools for building resilience in your landscape and in your human resources but it does not mean that you won't be impacted by natural disasters. In fact at times of fire when we are managing our grazing lands to conserve ground cover and a feed residual one of our biggest risks in a hot, dry period is fire. Thanks to our efforts in grazing management to conserve pastures our property was one of the blackest in the district after the fire and was featured as a back drop to many news crews reporting on the fire which burnt out over 23,000 hectares and destroyed 14 homes.
We are happy to report after some rain our grass is coming away again but it is going to take a long rest and significant rainfall to rebuild ground cover and biomass.
We are practicing being patient as fire recovery is a slow process and will not happen overnight. Dealing with our insurance company took many weeks of work but we are now ready to start the rebuilding process. Receiving help at times like this is the hardest thing for us and we have been humbled on many occasions by the amazing generosity we are experiencing.
Our regenerative agriculture toolkit reminds us to allow plenty of time for our pastures to rest to recover and to prioritise feeding our soil biology which will feed our plants as they recover. We quickly put out biodynamic soil activator and we are also putting out a bushfire soil remediation brew devised by Nicole Masters. We will be sure to share our experiences further here on the blog.
Our regenerative agriculture philosophy has been challenged by the realities of keeping livestock in such conditions. We have been feeding our cow in a sacrifice paddock for the time being which is incredibly hard for us given our passion for regenerative and adaptive grazing systems. However whilst coming to terms with the damage caused by the fire we found it difficult to move our gorgeous highland cow off the property. It was important to monitor her health for a couple of weeks initially and with our cattle yards destroyed in the fire and the lack of agistment options due to drought we had more good excuses not to! Working out a more suitable option for her for the coming winter months is our current challenge.
Mother nature is the most resilient of all in times of fire as new growth has reappeared in trees, pastures and gardens much more quickly than the man made structures will be redesigned and rebuilt.