Sunday, 22 September 2019

Out Of The Fire

The prolonged drought is one of the reasons I have not written a post for some time. The last time we had enough rain to fill our dam was Autumn 2018. So we had to stop watering our gardens and orchard several months back. Several months before we ceased watering, we had started a program of restricted watering. It has been an unpleasant experience seeing so many plants die. 

This is a photo of the dam when it was full.

Recently we had the added drama of a bushfire that nearly burnt our home out. It was about 4:30 one afternoon a couple of weeks back that my husband went outside to feed the dogs. As he went past me to put the dog food away he said, "I am just going back outside to check on some smoke I can see." I had assumed he meant smoke in the distance across the river from us. He came back to the door a couple of moments later and called me outside. We went up on the dam wall and looked to the south-west and there was a plume of smoke, and as we watched we saw flames rise up. The flames were visible in a paddock located a couple of properties over from us. We sprang into action and beetled back inside, Don to ring one of the neighbours and me to ring 000. Following the 000 call I rang another neighbour and left a message on their phone. I checked out a window and discovered the fire had already reached our back fence.  Roughly 60 metres from where I was standing inside looking out.

A few years ago a fire had gotten away from the neighbours behind us. It burned through their paddock and across into the back paddock of the neighbour to our right (on our western boundary). My husband was not concerned during that fire as he always keep the grass mowed and kills any grass on either side of the fences. So that fire merely burned up to our fence line and stopped there.

This photo was taken before the current drought and recent fire.
 Our property boundary is just behind the orchard and the middle background area is
 roughly the direction from which the fire came.

This month's fire was different. There was a huge fuel load on the neighbouring properties due to the dry conditions and the unmanaged state of the paddocks on the neighbouring properties. (Or to put it another way they had not been mowed or slashed for months and in some cases years and were full of weeds and long grass). Also there were very strong winds, so in the blink of an eye the grass fire leapt up into the tree canopy. 

We were now in evacuation mode. My husband moved our two vehicles to where we could begin loading them, but also out of the line of the approaching fire. As I started grabbing items and putting them on the outdoor table, Don leashed the dogs and put them in the back of the dual cab. Next he put in a large bag of dog food. I gathered documents, photos, wallet, purse, mobile phones, medications and eyeglasses. I helped pack these things into the car. I noticed Don disconnecting the gas bottles from the hot water system and moving them into a clear area away from structures and trees. I assisted with this briefly. As I did I could see the neighbouring property to the right was alight and some of our fruit trees in the orchard were also burning. I could hear the fire. The smoke was closing in. 

As I returned to grab some more items to put into the vehicles I saw the neighbours to the right with a couple of other people  dashing down their back yard to the fire, with buckets. No hope of holding that fire back with buckets of water. I saw them slow down and start turning back even before they got anywhere near the fire. 

Next back inside I started grabbing underwear, sleepwear, &  jewelry and started stuffing them into a bag. Don raced in threw open the wardrobe and grabbed a huge armful of my clothes, hangers and all and raced out to the car again. As I dashed out with a couple of more bags of gear, Don headed off to our western boundary and disappeared into thick smoke. At roughly this point we began to hear sirens in the distance. I called out to him to ask if the pump shed was locked and out of the smoke he called back that it wasn't, and would I please go and turn on the water pump, which I did. He started putting out spot fires. 

I went back inside and grabbed some of Don's clothes from the wardrobe and tossed them in the car. By this time the smoke was very thick and visibility was becoming poor. I started to become concerned because Don was still putting out spot fires. I noticed a spot fire to the north of where we had the cars parked and knew it was time to get out. I started yelling over the roar of the fire into the smoke in the direction I hoped Don was and telling him it was time to go. He reappeared and we grabbed our laptops and a dog bowl as the fire trucks came onto the scene - not down our drive way but cutting straight across the front paddock. The fire-fighters parked directly in front of our place and the one I approached said to me we will do our best to save your home. Meanwhile the firemen from the smaller truck started toward the fire-front on our western boundary. I pointed out to the firefighter that I was talking to that a tree to the east of our house was now fully alight and that we had moved the gas bottles out of the way as best we could. He thanked me and I calmly told him that Don and I were now going to evacuate. I got to the vehicles and said to Don where is our meeting up point? He gave me a bit of a strange look and said at the front gate. (I have to admit at this point I was a bit adrenalised and had been ready for a more dramatic meeting point. 😉)

Our meeting point. Of course we kept the actual driveway
and gate clear for emergency services to gain access.

Before and behind me.

Earlier that afternoon, at just after 3:20 pm I looked at Don and said, if we were told we had half an hour to evacuate our property, what would be the first five things you would grab? It was during that conversation we listed the dogs, dog leads dog food, documents and most of the other things that later on that afternoon we managed to pack in around 10 minutes. 

When the fire-fighters arrived and Don and I got into the cars and drove away - 220 metres to the north 😊, (the fire was being driven to the north-east by the winds), - I felt calm and at peace that we had done what we could. Of course I was still a little adrenalised. However I felt that we had enough in our cars to see us through any initial difficult period we now faced. I felt protected.

Banjo and Moxie were safe throughout the whole ordeal.

The first person I called when I parked my car was my Pastor Jo, her husband was out at the time. She offered us a place to stay. Shortly after her husband texted me to say he was on his way to help Don fight the fires. I texted back and advised him that we were surrounded by emergency services; fire, police and paramedics, and we were safe. I felt an added sense of security knowing my pastors were standing by, ready to help as needed. 

The firefighters did save our home and those of our neighbours. One neighbour lost a caravan and another lost a shed full of concreting equipment to the blaze. 

I found out about a week later that the fire was caused when a branch came down on a power line causing it to spark. 

In Other News

Around the middle of the year I hit a really big roo while driving. The dual cab was off the road for nearly three months. I did not realise it would take so long for the repairs to be finalised. But then, I have never hit a roo before. Did I mention he was really big? 

In December last year I mentioned that I was starting a women's ministry in our church in January of this year. I had always planned to have a blog connected to the women's ministry which is called 'Network 31'. I have finally, finally, started that blog and I have included a link to it here , in case you are interested. There aren't many posts there as yet and I am still learning how to work my way around the blogging platform used. For every two steps forward I have been taking one step back, so it has been an lesson in patience for me. 

 This is the link to the main 'Network 31' page.

Saturday, 26 January 2019


When we want to see different things come into our lives we need to remember for things to change we need to change. Sometimes in order to move forward we need to let things go. We hold onto negative thoughts, behaviours, habits and feelings that keep us from changing direction or from realising our potential.

Our mind, our words, our mood our attitudes – these are all connected. One of Shakespeare’s characters said “Things are neither good nor bad, but thinking that makes it so.” It has also been said that what you focus on is what you empower in your life. Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to change our perception, our viewpoint of what is in front of us.

Friday, 18 January 2019

In My Garden - Dianthus

It has been hot and humid the last couple of weeks, which is part and parcel of summer in the sub-tropics. More rain would be most welcome, though we still have water in the dam.  Today I would like to share some flower photos. 

Dianthus or Pinks as they are commonly known do well in many parts of Australia. 
I used the think these flowers were known as Pinks due to their colour however I now understand that it is due to the zig-zagged edge of the petals, which look like they have been trimmed with pinking shears.

Dianthus vary in hardiness. I find I have more success with the Sweet Williams than I have done with Carnations. Regular pruning of spent flowers promotes better plant growth and of improves the general appearance of the plant. Fertilise periodically during the flowering season. 

A light annual dressing of dolomite lime can be beneficial. They can be cut back to about half around autumn. I find the Dianthus Jolt variety deal with heat and dryness better than many other flower plants. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Getting Rid of Excess Baggage

One of the activities I included in my "Sailing Into the New Year" workshop I ran toward the end of last year included getting rid of excess baggage. I have included some of the information from the workshop in this post.

We all have excess baggage, the ideas, self-limiting thoughts, fears, resentments, and feelings that are holding us back. We can be carrying it due to painful, negative, or harmful experiences, and from interactions which cause us to react in a negative way.  We can lose sight of what God has in store for us simply because all this baggage is weighing us down.

How do we avoid carrying all that excess baggage into the new year?

By letting go of what no longer serves us.

Take some time to ponder over the excess baggage you have been carting round this year, and in previous years.

In the workshop we then wrote a list of things we did not want to bring with us into the new year. Some of the members of the group shared some of things they had written. I also included in this section of the workbook a prayer of release, so we could hand this baggage over to God. 

Two of the things I included in my list of excess baggage was worry and over-conscientiousness. You may like to write your own list of 'excess baggage' that you would like to let go of this year. 

Heb 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, 

Heb 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down,  

Friday, 11 January 2019

Tending Your Victory Garden

There is an old proverb:
Public Domain Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.

Sow a thought, reap an action
Sow an action, reap a habit,
Sow a habit, reap a character
Sow a character, reap a destiny

The question we can ask ourselves is 'what is it that we are sowing with our thoughts?'

If I sow some tomato seeds and carefully water and tend those seeds, I expect to see tomato seedlings emerge. I do not expect to see hollyhock seedlings, or indeed any other type of seedlings emerge from my tomato seeds.

As I water and tend the seedlings, and remove any weeds from their vicinity, I expect these tomato seedlings grow into tomato plants. I do not expect to see them change into carrots or nasturtiums as they grow.

As I carefully water and tend the plants I expect to see tomato flowers form on the plants. I do not expect to my tomato plants put forth roses.

As I continue to water and tend my flowering tomato plants I expect to see tomatoes form. I do not expect to see pumpkins or cashews fruiting on my tomato plants.

What about us and what we are sowing with our thoughts? Do we sow thoughts of lack and expect abundance? Do we sow thoughts of criticism and expect good relationships? Do we sow thoughts of worry and expect peace? Do we sow thoughts of sickness and expect health?

As I was thinking along these lines I remembered that midst the trials and tribulations of World War II the women on the Home Front were called on to create gardens to grow their own food.  Did they call these gardens Battle Gardens. No! They were called Victory Gardens. At one of the darkest times in modern history and while facing the direst of perils, these gardeners focused on victory while acting in a manner that in their way helped create that victory.  "A Victory Garden is like a share in an airplane factory. It helps win the War and it pays dividends too."  — Claude Wickard, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

We too can sow a Victory Garden - in our minds. A garden of healthy, empowering and powerful thoughts based on scripture. If we carefully water and tend these thoughts we will see them empower our actions. From these actions new  habits can emerge. People will see us develop a Christlike character; and just imagine the  God planned destiny we will step into as we tend our victory garden of thoughts.

The Bible tells us in Philippians 4: 8 (NIV)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy—think about such things.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

19 For 2019

In the women's workshop I ran toward the end of last year I included an activity called My List of 19 For 2019.

This wasn't a list of New Year's resolutions. Rather it was about creating a list of things that were comforting or fun. A list of things that replenish, revive and restore. Some of the things on my list were:
  • Sit by the river to relax and read a good book.
  • Go to the movies
  • Country drives
So far I have only 13 things on my list. So I have another 6 things to think up. This morning I thought of two new things and by the time I got to adding them to my list I could only remember one! I think we are all a bit like this at times. Good ideas come to us but if we don't record these ideas somewhere they will drift away. 

Why not try coming up with your own list of 19 For 2019?

Friday, 4 January 2019

In My Garden - 4th January 2019

"This day has a feeling in my picture of warmth and light breezes and sunshine and afternoons that stretch to eternity....." Angela Thirkwell

Summer holidays here for the most part have been a picture of "warmth and light breezes and sunshine." My afternoons have not been stretching to eternity however, as both my afternoons and evenings seem to speed by.  The following is what I have managed to do in the garden the past week.

On Saturday I applied fertiliser to the citrus trees. In the orchard we have a very productive small lemon tree and a mandarin that fruits well every second year. In pots I have another mandarin, another lemon, and a cumquat tree. I also did some watering. I cut my gardening time short as Don and I went for a drive that morning.

Monday saw me weeding the 'onion' bed. This bed is planted with chives and spring onions. I watered the lemon and mandarin trees in the orchard and hand watered some other plants. I also watered the veggie patch, which is mostly resting for the summer but does have some marigold plants growing, and the rhubarb have resurrected themselves. I also applied sulphate of potash to one of my ornamental gardens and watered it in. As I worked on the ornamental garden I watch the Dollarbirds flying around hunting insects. I find them pretty.

New Years Morning was warm and still. I began work in the garden around 6.30 in the morning with some weeding and was chased off after awhile by the mozzies and midges. Some more of the dianthus (Pinks) were dead headed. I applied some Penetrade (soil wetting agent) to one of the trees in the orchard as I am a bit concerned that the soil around the tree may be hydrophobic.  This tree has never borne fruit but it is a favourite of mine because of the leaf colour and at the moment the tree is not thriving as it should. I also helped Don put up our 'butterfly' gazebo which he had taken down when T.C. Owen was predicted to come down the Queensland Coast.

Wednesday morning, just as I was about to go out into the garden I got an idea for an article for my church's weekly email. So I delayed going out into the garden while I quickly wrote 'Tending Your Victory Garden'. Once I wrote out the ideas that had come to mind I left the article for later editing and went and started my actual garden chores. I didn't manage to do a whole lot in the garden this morning as it became too hot early on. I did manage some more weeding. and I skirted the lemon tree. I watered some of the trees in the orchard and the marigolds and rhubarb growing in the veggie garden. I also watered some of the ornamental plants.

Thursday I turned some of the compost. As I was turning the compost I added blood and bone and molasses water to the pile. I also used some of the broken down compost by adding it to a new vegetable garden bed that we have been preparing. I also added some blood and bone to this bed and watered it in well.

I still have lots of Dianthus to dead head. 
Last year I transplanted a several large Agave pups to a curved garden area adjacent to a section of our driveway. I had the soaker hose watering there on Thursday and it seems that the soil in that area is quite water impenetrable. So today I applied some Penetrade and watered again. Hopefully that will help the soil soak up the water, because the Agave are looking a bit haggard.

During the week we have also been enjoying watching the King Parrots feed off the seeds produced by the many Swamp Grasstree Plants we have. These are all volunteer plants.