For the past month we’ve been up and down from our place in Fish Creek. It’s been a beautiful South Gippsland spring; cold enough to have a fire at night and hot enough in the day to have to put on a sunhat. But it’s dry – on the bus down from Melbourne the other day I talk to a retired dairy farmer from Yanakie and he tells me people are already feeding silage to their cows. Grant Bath’s water carting truck is already busily running up and down the Foster Rd refilling dry house tanks. Normally this is the time of year farm dams are overflowing, farmers are still wondering when they’re going to get out of their gumboots and the grass is growing so fast you have to start mowing almost as soon as you’ve finished. The old dairyman says he can only remember feeding out this early one time back in 1977 – another year with a particularly strong El Nino pattern.
I look around our place; the warrigal greens under the old bottlebrush have wilted alarmingly, the grass on the driveway has browned off, the rainbow chard has long bolted and the hay paddock should be waist high but is hardly up to my knees. El Nino is asking us questions – which garden beds will we save with our limited water and which ones will we leave and hope for the best? I lay out drip line around our most productive bed – it’s not all bad news; the heat’s brought on an early crop of sweet tart cape gooseberries (aka superfood of the moment inca berries) as well as a bowlful of semi-sweet pepinos (ground loquats I call them – plentiful but a bit tasteless – sorry loquat and pepino lovers).I sit down on the garden border and feast for a while looking around. It should be a good fruit year – there are heaps of little mulberries, nectarines, plums, grapes and all the apples and pears are heavily covered in white blossoms. I know if I can keep the water up to them we’ll have fruit to give away. I think about Fair Food’s farmers – for them this summer will be time to drain dams, call on water rights and scheme supplies. It’s not bad – not by any stretch and nothing compared to what people in inland Queensland and NSW have been going through for the past two years. Our lawns and gardens will come back and before too long we’ll wonder again when we can put our gumboots away but when the rain doesn’t fall from the sky when it should it’s another little wake-up for us busy, busy folk – just a little reminder that we’re a part of something much bigger.