Monday, December 6, 2010

When it rains...and rains...

For as long as I can remember now, rain is something I've always wished for. When we first moved here (nearly four years ago) we were still experiencing the longest drought of our lives. Rain never came. In our first year we had to get a delivery of water to fill our tank.

For the past 7 days however, we could have filled our tank at least 20 times! I'm not complaining; except maybe for a lack of tanks, LOL. But it's just amazing how the seasons have changed.

This time last year, I would've walked along the verandah searching the blue skies for signs of rain. Would there be a cloud in the distance with a tinge of grey? Much to our disappointment, any cloud that was on the horizon, looking like that, tended to go around us. Rain, just never seemed to arrive.

But when it did though, oh boy!

December 2007

I went searching our old photos for this one - our first summer storm season. It was the first time I was left alone at the house (Dave was at work) and the heavens opened up on our property. It was relentless. I was terrified. Not only was the deluge on the colourbond roof, deafening, but the pooling water couldn't escape fast enough.

December 2007

At one point, it threatened to lap at the edge of the verandah and all I could do was grab the camera and tremble, as I took these photos. Please note: this is where the front retaining wall currently stands, December 2010!

The kind of rain we're experiencing three years later, is completely different. It's not heavy rain but it's set in for at least 2-3 weeks now. The sunshine rarely comes out and the rain stops every now and then. In fact, there were signs of hope yesterday. I nearly did a happy dance when the sun pierced through the clouds as it set in the west. Don't go, I thought. I wondered if the sun would be there to greet me in the morning.

It was bleak skies and more rain though, LOL. This is entirely a new experience in my adult life. I remember rain in my youth, which would spoil a picnic or a day at the beach, but I cannot remember weeks upon weeks of rain.

Today though, all the plans we had for digging better drainage trenches, has turned to mush now, literally! We got a good start on it, and then the rain set in. There were a few days in between (where it didn't rain) but the sun couldn't possibly manage to dry the mud before the rain arrived again. I wouldn't say it's entirely frustrating, as we've accepted this is the way it must be for now. But it has made us realise how much life depends on sunshine as well as rain.

Since we've been here, 90% of our spare time has been spent outside: working the soil, making compost, feeding the chickens, planting seeds and trees, reapplying mulch, moving rocks, building chicken coops - we LOVE being outside. Instinctively we know it's summertime but where's the sun to embrace us outside?

On the plus side though, when it rains...and rains...

It's the best year for establishing trees. Especially fruit trees! All the previous summers, we've had to cart water by hand - which was okay when we only had 6 citrus trees to begin with. Once the pears went in and the extra citrus though, plus the natives we wanted to grow in exposed clay soils, it became a monotonous chore just getting water to them. This is the first year we've not had to water establishing plants. Good old rain, the ultimate natural water source!

It's also an opportunity to test the drainage trenches we've put in place. This kind of consistent but mostly gentle rain, ensures all the trenches are filled to maximum capacity without the force of deluge water, cutting new tracks or breaking banks. As you can see in the picture below:

This is the pond we're attempting to turn into a water source for bees, birds (woodland ducks nest in the area) and for frogs to breed. This kind of rain is excellent for frogs! You should hear them out here. They sing you to sleep at night. Our daughter thoroughly enjoys visiting the pond to catch a tadpole too, and see what stage of development they're at. No legs yet, but hopefully soon! The slightly narrower pond (in the background) is actually a drainage trench we tried widening before the rain put a stop to it.

The drainage trenches are meant for when the pond overflows, or to carry any water that comes down from the slope above. One day, fingers crossed, we'll get this project finished. A week of sunshine would just about make it possible to start digging again.

Another bonus to all this rain is seeing what kind of microscopic life lives in the soil too. In conditions such as these, fungi and mushroom spores start growing, leaving their bright orange or pale caps dotted across the landscape. Look at this amazing example below:

We noticed how the fungi only developed on the southern side of the log, that receives very little sunshine in these overcast days. As has happened with these gorgeous orange caps below. They sprung up in the soil, only on the southern side of a large lantana bush.

Is it any wonder people imagined fairies lived at the bottom of gardens, when in a matter of days, these little magic tops would spring up from nowhere? I'm always amazed at the things which spring up after a good dose of rain here.

It's nice to know however, the galahs and cockatoos are still getting a good feed - even if it is our lovely sunflowers!

We counted five large cockatoos perching on (or near) the sunflower patch this morning, and one even perched on Middle-Ridge chicken coop. The chickens were none too happy! I don't mind the cockatoos eating our sunflowers, but we didn't appreciate their hawk-like impersonations perched on the roof. We shooed them away to spare the poor chooks.

One of the last advantages I can think of, for all this rain - apart from breaking the drought - is how vastly superior photos can be taken when everything is wet. I've decided the best time for photos is after a healthy dose of rain, with light overcast conditions. Here are a few I've taken this morning, of our front retaining wall. Not doing too badly considering what 2007 looked like!

Notice the slight erosion (picture above) that has stopped the drainage trench, draining the water away properly. It's caused the water to pool in front of the wall. This needs to drain away completely so it doesn't keep the wall footings wet. We have moved the excess dirt now, but the problem which needs addressing permanently (the erosion) is found much further up. Fine weather only project though, I'm afraid.

This last picture however, shows the very end of our retaining wall - where all the water at the front of the house ends up, on it's way down the slopes, to the back of our house. It's funny to see the rocks we've collected for our dry river creek bed, swimming in the water. Like many things around here, it's just another project waiting to be finished.

When it rains and rains however, everything must come to a stop.


  1. I completely relate to the fear you must of felt when you saw that first big storm in your house. I have a video somewhere of a classic Midwestern storm brewing that I keep meaning to edit and put up. Its a wonder that in my fear, I didn't run for shelter! But I wanted to keep an eye on it so I stayed put watching it until I was convinced that a tornado wasn't forming on my land. LOL!

    Your work on your land is very thoughtful and inspiring to me. We have a different situation than yours but we have trouble spots that have similar conditions.

    I love the pond! That is one of my dreams that would be easily accomplished if only I could decide where I want to locate it!

  2. Now a tornado on the other hand...that's some pretty scary stuff!

    Like you, I have to stay and watch how things develop too. Even when I'm shaking like jelly on a plate as the adrenalin pumps through my system - I still have to know what's coming.

    I'd rather deal with noisy rain on a tin roof, and a shovel to muck up afterwards, than have to witness the prospect of a tornado brewing though. Those things are super scary!

    Funny you should mention locating a pond. This one kind of appeared when we noticed water liked to pool there. As it wasn't a great deal of water it would dry up in a day or so. Once you got to see it over a few years however, the idea just forms in your head - why not make it last longer?

    Then the first tadpoles arrive and the woodland ducks take more of an interest, you just know it's got to be permanent.

    In effect, this pond has had several stages. It sort of keeps growing. Not that our picks and shovels had anything to do with it, LOL. ;)

  3. I've been watching to see where water might collect naturally but our land has excellent surface drainage. There once was a large pond in our woods but I had hoped to actually stock ours with fish eventually. The leaves from the trees would wreck havoc on the oxygen levels of the pond in that spot without a pump. So we keep thinking and thinking......waiting for that Eureka moment!

    I grew up with earthquakes and have lived with a few big ones.....adrenaline rushes and all but fear? Not really...just the thought of a tornado scares me though!


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