We got 40mm, plus a few beetles, in our rain gauge.
It’s not enough.
While we were getting monthly rainfall in the single digits, I found myself begging the clouds for a single millimetre to take the edge off the damage from the heat, and maybe keep a few things going that would otherwise die. It’s been frustrating to watch the brown tinge working its way along the creek (where the water table usually keeps the casuarinas alive) and up the steep slope we planted in 2011, (where the acacias should have survived another decade at least)
While 2019 wasn’t either the hottest or the driest on record for this area, it was a record combination (other hot years have had some rain, other dry years have been less hot).
Charles asked me why I didn’t make a hokey video of dancing in the rain, like so many others when the rain came. The main reason was I was dancing, not filming. Also, I was running around cleaning out our leaf traps (which stop leaves going into our drinking water). The roof was so filthy from the weeks of dust and smoke, that the first ten minutes of rain was a scary brown colour.
Luckily we have a system where we can open the inflow pipes for the water tank and let the dirty water escape. That meant I had to run out in the rather cold downpour and screw the earmuff-shaped caps up again after the water ran clean.
Luckily for us, all the rain we’ve had has come in short bursts, which, while heavy, stop before it causes major erosion on the bare paddocks. That means the water is going straight into the dry ground, and getting some time to soak through the water-repellent top layer that builds up in a drought.
After the first day of rain, I checked to see if Mullion Creek was running again. Nothing.
Again after the followup rain – no runoff at all. I was a little distracted that day, as while we got only a nice pelting with raindrops at Esdale, our car (parked at the Australian National University in Canberra) got both windscreens, wing mirrors, and tail-lights smashed, plus an all over dimpling effect from cricket ball sized hail. Since 15,000 other cars in Canberra got the same treatment, two weeks later we still haven’t been able to have it assessed.
Meanwhile, I went to Melbourne where the rain came down a rusty red, having incorporated a dust storm from northern Victoria.
A local talking about the drought and changing climate’s effect on their cattle farm mentioned recently that the worst effect of this drought has been to make them lose their trust in the reliability of anything coming from the sky. It’s a fundamental loss of confidence.
I’ve found that my celebration of 40 mls (plus beetles, hail and wet red dirt) was short lived. I am happy to see green patches, with tiny blades of grass coming up where it wasn’t worn completely away.
But now I’m greedy. Having had a taste of proper rain, I’ve remembered that 40ml is not even our usual monthly allowance (57ml) and there’s a long way to go to get the land back to something more healthy. And I don’t trust it to happen.
Even after the first round of rain, the bushfires were still roaring south of Canberra, leading to apocalyptic sunsets, with a spooky double glow. Fires always look closer than they really are, but the Orroral one, even 60 kilometres away, seemed to be heading right across the hills to us.
Last night we had a good second dousing. After circling around us all day, prompting bitter remarks about the Bureau of Meteorology and their optimistic forecasts, it finally began to pelt down rain in the middle of the night.
This morning I can hear the change in the roar of the river, and the creek has started to run again.
I still want more, though.