Sunday, January 20, 2013

Before and After - Wet and Dry Seasons

The last 3 summers here on the farm have all been wet. Things have been lush and green and life has been good. And now we find ourselves in a position where moisture is scarce. We need rain desperately. And here is the proof:

The top photo was taken this time last year. We were cut off from returning to school at this point. The bottom one was taken last week. Same place.

The top photo was taken last week. Looking out from our front verandah. The bottom photo was the same location last year.

The top photo is our back yard last week. The grass is sying in patches even with constant watering. The two weeks of 40+ degree heat has taken its toll. The bottom picture was last year. Lush.
So please do a rain dance for us. Some places are even worse, but we could really use some rain! x

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

BACK TO SCHOOL! (And a Giveaway!)

Want to win a $50 Stuck On You voucher for all your Back To School needs?
I was given a bunch of awesome things by Stuck on You to review, but the good news is that I actually use this stuff anyway, and I have something to give away to one lucky reader too!

I love school holidays!

Yes, there are fights, and more fights, and DEAR LORD WHY CAN'T YOU KIDS JUST GET ALONG ALREADY???!!! But holidays also mean that I don't have to pack lunches every day, bed times are flexible, and I get to hang out more with my kids, and see where they're at and how they are growing from little people into big people. Plus they live in their swimmers/togs bathers (depending on where you live) so the holiday clothes washing is minimal... (except for CPs washing, but that's another blog).

But there are only a few more weeks of holidays left, and now I am faced with the sad prospect of having to cover books and label... well, EVERYTHING!!!! Because as anyone with kids knows,  if you don't have your name on it, you'll never see it again once your kids enter the school gates, and then the school will call you and ask you to replace all your missing items.... *sigh*

Regardless, I am still faced with the prospect of BACK TO SCHOOL craziness, no matter how hard I resist it...

Every year (without fail) I invest in some Stuck on You products. Mostly I just go with the Family Value Pack, and a few extras, but over the last few years, their products have expanded to include some really awesome new things.

How about these:

1. (Kids) Art Smocks and Aprons - labelled! How cute?

My number two child loves her art, but two of her uniforms were permanently ruined by 'unremovable paint' last year? This year I am prepared! Bring on art!

Creativity never looked so cute!And cooking! My eldest is going to have a blast in this apron, and she already feels very special having her name on it. No fights over who owns these! These babies are seriously durable, and will see my kids through any adventure in the kitchen or art room. I'm so excited about them it's not funny!

2. Mini Pencil/Name Labels - for clothes, books, pencils, pens, shoes, lunchboxes, drink bottles, hats, bags... YOU NAME IT! Stuck on You have thought of everything! I am obsessed. If something in this house sits still for long enough, I'll be sure to label it. And I sure as heck fire will be getting all of our belongings back at the end of the year at this rate! The FAMILY PACK consists of school, clothing and shoe labels. I usually get one of these every year!

3. Bag tags - See the green backhoe above centre? So cute! Say no more... My little fella is proud as punch of his bag tag!

Given my domestically challenged personality, the good news is that if I can affix these labels and what not, then you will have no trouble whatsoever! Easy peasy!

And really, how cute are Stuck on You designs? You can personalise them for your own children.

Did you know that Stuck on You also sell a range of other cool things including (but not limited to):
* Towels and bags
* Lunch boxes, drink bottles and other school paraphernalia
* Calendars and diaries
* Household items like laundry bags and clothing
* Embroidery on items (like cushions, towels etc).
* Stationery and invitations
* Photo books
* Gift ideas
* Puzzles!

I highly recommend going and checking out the page. In fact you can find them at any of these social media links, where you can also score great giveaways and discounts!
Google+ - Okey.

One lucky reader will score a $50 Stuck on You voucher to spend on whatever goodies they like! All you need to do is tell me your favourite Stuck on You product either in the comments below, or on my facebook page. And don't worry if you are already organised and have stocked up on labels! They make great gifts or you can save them for next year!

Giveaway Conditions

1. Judges decision is final. Winner will be drawn randomly.
2. Giveaway closes Sunday 9am EST. 20/01/13.
3. Competition only open to residents of Australia.
4. You will need to check back on here or on my facebook page on Sunday to see if you are a winner, and if you don't get back to me by Monday morning, I will do a redraw.

*Disclaimer - this is a gifted post*

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Lightning Fire

We've had a crazy few days!

Two days ago our power went off at about 3.30pm. The weather had been in the mid 40 degrees celcius for over a week (for those who don't work in celcius, 40 degrees is 104+ degrees f). I took the kids out to the pool for a swim to escape the heat, and things were going fine.

Don't judge me for teaching my kids poker. They still have their clothes on, so my parenting skills are in check!
By 6pm the power still wasn't back on. I wasn't too fazed, as when the weather is really hot, the power can go out when the draw on it is huge. The kids had started asking about dinner, but it was just still too hot to go back into a kitchen with no air con. We stayed in the pool for a while longer, and then as the sun began to set, we headed inside.

By this stage, dark clouds had surrounded the house, and thunder was rumbling. I started opening windows in the house to let some of the cool breeze in. No sooner had I opened the lounge room windows, we were hit with a strong gust of wind (it looked like those scenes in a movie where a bomb goes of and blows people away in slow motion). The wind had picked up dust and leaves and goodness knows what else, and had turned into a quick dust storm. Vicious winds pulled branches from trees and trees from the earth surrounding them. We could hear branches hitting the roof. Sadly there was not much rain in the storm at all. Thunder and lightning surrounded us. Lightning is awful in conditions like this because the ground is so dry, and the likelihood of fire is high.

The kids were scared, and I was rushing around trying to close windows as quickly as I had opened them. CP was trying to remove loose items around the yard and verandah. I tried to locate all our torches, candles, matches and gas lamps before it got dark. And then we sat and ate spaghetti from cans for dinner.

And then just as quickly the dust storm had gone.

Trying to calm the kids for bed was going to be difficult. It was hot, and with no fans or air con, it was going to be a long, hot night. I wet some towels and got the kids to use them as blankets, though thankfully the weather had cooled slightly. Just as we were brushing our teeth, my in laws pulled up in front of our house in their truck. There was a fire. I ran out the back to see what we had somehow missed, and sure enough, in the distance to the south, was the eerie redish glow you don't want to see in the sky after a lightning storm.

It was dark everywhere except in the southern sky, and it looked close.

We couldn't tell if the fire was on our place or further south, so the first trip out was just to locate it.

And then the phone started to ring. In areas like where we live, this is what happens when there is a fire. We all call around to see if anyone else knows where it is, and to get more help. I manned the phone (and kids), and CP headed out to the fire.

A few minutes later a phonecall from CP confirmed that the fire was in fact on a property to the south of us, on a wheat crop (which was currently only stubble thank goodness), and there were about 20 men on the ground already, so he was heading home to prepare his water pump set up for situations like this.

Having sat idle for about 15-20 years, the water pump set up needed to be 're-adjusted'. CP was stressed, and it became something of an ordeal. The power was still out, so we were all working with torches, lamps and headlights. I asked CP if I could help and he told me to grab the hoses from out at the pool.

The kids were following my every moves, and no amount of begging would keep them inside. After threatening and bribing them they stood in the kitchen watching me stumble around the back yard with a torch and metres upon metres of hose. I dragged it past our BBQ area, and was about to take it out to the shed, when I caught sight of a large (fat) brown snake only metres in front of me. I froze and started screaming. CP came to help remove the snake, and then I helped him finish the water pump kit.

Once he had gone and I had put the kids to bed, I went outside to take photos of the fire from our back yard. This fire was about 15km away but the flash must have really picked up the colours in the smoke. The photos look much closer and scarier than it actually was. The fire would get under control and then the wind would pick up and spread it again. So it was a precarious situation.


CP came home at midnight and said that the fire was totally under control. We both tried to get some sleep.

The power stayed off for a total of 26 hours! Thankfully we have a generator, and the weather had cooled slightly. It turns out a power line had fallen.

We went for a drive the next day to see where the fire had been.

It had been huge. I am still chasing actual pics of the fire... might have to do an update later.

Hope everyone else stays safe this summer, and that those affected by fire, and still under threat of fire take care. We are all safe and sound here and there was no damage to physical property.


Monday, January 7, 2013


Yesterday we were driving home after some time away when we saw this:

This fire was under control, and (I suspect) part of a preventative burn off given current climatic conditions. It was mesmerising.

As I type this, in Australia today there are hundreds of bushfires blazing (mostly) out of control. And by that I mean that they were not part of an organised burn off like the one above. Tasmania is bearing the brunt of it at the moment, with many homes completely destroyed, though thankfully no lives have been taken at this point. Several years ago in Victoria we were not so lucky.

When I was 14 or 15 years of age, I experienced a bushfire myself, and have had a severe phobia of bushfires ever since.

My family lived on a small property that was surrounded on two sides by thick, dry rainforest. On most days it was magnificent - lush and green and visually spectacular. But when there was a fire it became a terrifying location to live. Our nearest neighbours lived on the ridge opposite us, so that they could see our property and house, with only a deep gully separating us.

On this one day I happened to be home alone. My parents were at work or shopping and my siblings were staying with friends. Mobile phones weren't readily available back then. The local fire brigade were doing a 'back burn' (which is supposed to reduce the likelihood of an 'out of control' fire jumping that line), however a wind picked up in the process, sending the fire out of the control of the fire brigade.

I was in my room when I heard the first crackling sounds approaching. It's hard to explain, but if you can imagine someone stepping on a large pile of dried leaves and sticks, and magnify that sound, then that's what I could hear. I hadn't heard anything like it before, so I ran outside to have a look. At the bottom of one of the gullys, fire ripped through the top of the trees, literally jumping tens of trees at a time and raced up the hill towards our timber house. I was numb.

This is not my photo - it was taken from the Black Saturday page.

It took a few seconds to realise that that fire was going much faster than I could ever hope to move, so I ducked back into the house and dialled 000. Having never had to dial 000 before I didn't know what to expect, and the call went something like this:

"Hello you've reached Emergency Services, how can I assist you?"

"Yes, um, I'm home on my own and there is a massive bushfire coming up the hill to my house! We live at (address) and please hurry! It's moving so quickly!"

"So would you like me to put you through to Fire?"

*and I hung up, realising there was no more time to spend on the phone.*
I had to get out quickly.

I raced out of the house and started screaming down our driveway. The fire was already so close to our yard fence and I hoped and prayed that my neighbours would see or hear me! I was literally screaming 'HELP ME! FIRE!' over and over, and thankfully, the neighbours heard me. I saw them all jump into their cars and speed towards our house. They had seen the fire and heard me screaming, and they were at our house in minutes. The wife of one neighbour took me quickly into the house and rushed around finding suitcases and clothes and personal items to pack. We grabbed photo albums, jewellery and clothes. We took whatever we could grab and threw it into her car, as the men all grabbed garden hoses and held the fire at bay as best they could. Another neighbour had called 000 again and I was told that emergency services were on their way. I was driven to a house nearby where I sat and waited for something. I didn't know if I was waiting for news about the house, or for my parents, or just to be moved again. I cried. A lot. For all I knew, my house had burned to the ground and we had lost everything that I hadn't packed.

I don't remember much after that. I do remember that I couldn't go home. The house was saved, but stumps and trees burned out for days and even weeks. The smell of smoke permeated everything and I just couldn't go back to the house the way it was. In my head, every crackle was another fire, and the smoke terrified me. I spent about a week with neighbours who were several kilometres down the road.

After that I spent a week with family in Brisbane. And when it finally came time for me to go home, I had trouble sleeping. I had to see a psychiatrist. It helped, but the fear of bushfire remains. As a post script, 000 have now improved their advertising campaign about what to do should you ever need to call them, but make sure your kids know what to do too. They had a record of my call, but were unable to act on it as I failed to request the fire department. A miscommunication.

More recently, when I moved to the farm, I remember asking CP what we did in case of a fire emergency. I needed to know who the 'local' fire department was, and where they were. He smiled proudly and announced that it was him and his dad. I couldn't believe it at first, but ten years later and several close call fire emergencies have taught me that given our isolated location, fire departments usually arrive to do a cleanup, not a 'house save'. Which leaves us and our neighbours as the first port of call. In event of a scrub/fire the local fire brigade should be called first, but it will be you and your neighbours who will come to help each other out, and we fight fires with machinery (making breaks and clearing etc), more so than water.

My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by bushfire, or who is still threatened by the possibility of bushfire. Although we all love the warmer months in Australia, the fire season is our summer's 'dark passenger'. The clothes, the house, the possessions: they can all be replaced. Take the warnings seriously and look after yourselves and your families first and foremost.

And remember to be 'fire safe', by keeping your roof and gutters clear of debris, and your yard tidy. Heed all warnings, and keep hoses and a supply of water handy. Plan your escape if it gets to that and do it well ahead of time. And send your love and support to those people who have already been affected. xxx