View Full Version : Natural Disasters
28-09-2006, 08:23 AM
I joined and first posted last week and since then our area ,the Goulburn Valley in Victoria has suffered unbelievable winds which stripped fruit from trees and then we had two nights of record frosts.There was no warning from the BOM as weather patterns changed very quickly and it wasn't widely thought we'd get a frost after the winds.But the subsequent damage done to commercial fruit crops as well as home gardens is devastating!!
We've lost two large and important old-growth box trees, the roof off a shed and damage to the garden fruit trees.But compared to our neighbouring orchardist friends,we've escaped lightly.I don't agree with large-scale fruitgrowing practises such as the pesticide use,the growth promotants,weedicides etc ,and don't mention their labour hiring ,rates of pay and work conditions--but it's a tragedy to see these hard working small growers lose everything.They will have no income this year at all but will still have to buy water to keep the trees alive,still pay to cultivate and prune and hopefully get a crop in late 2007/ early 2008 . Some growers have lost 100% of the crop,others might salvage some late pears and peaches,but don't expect to eat an apricot this year unless it's chinese and out of a can!
My grandfather used to work on getting two good years farming in six.That's when you made some money,the other years you borrowed and hoped to pay the bank next year These orchardists have now had drought for 7 years and frost 2 out of 3--there will be some cheap farms coming up for sale soon I expect!!
Living on the land makes you aware of nature in a way no city dweller can expect to understand, -our dependance on the weather, the way life's rhythms unfold with the seasons ,growth and rebirth, the absolute importance of water .And the way it can all alter with a days wind,or frost,or flood,or heatwave
Goodbye for now
28-09-2006, 06:12 PM
Sorry to learn about your loss. From the brief scraps of news I've heard concerning your district it sounds pretty bad.
It is very interesting to learn about farming culture in your Grandfather's time. Yes, they certainly did it tough in those days, and it appears that nothing much has changed with mainstream farming today - except that the farms have become bigger, in line with the bank overdrafts!
I guess there is a lesson to be learnt out of this latest affair: Large scale, monocultural farming is very vunerable to the vagaries of nature. We humans have experienced much in the way of fluctuating weather cycles in the last 10,000-years-or-so, you would think we would have learnt by now how to 'read' the weather better. Personally I do not believe there is such a thing as a 'natural disaster', rather I think that what we have is a system of farming that fails to take into full acount the variables that nature can provide us with. Flood, drought, fire, frost and famine, all of these events are mere memories of our distant (and not so distant) past. How quickly we forget.
I imagine in your Grandfather's time that there was no such thing as a BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) weather forecast. In our Grandparent's time they had to learn by experience when to cover crops, move sheep to cover, etc. This was often by studying the 'knowledge banks' that were passed down from one generation to the next. As you suggest, your Grandfather would be lucky to have had one good year out of three. It seems that nothing much has changed. I've just returned from a field trip to the North Central Victorian grassy plains (Terrrick Terrick NP). Farmers are cutting withered cereal crops for hay; dams are drying up; sheep are looking skinny, and with no water allocation to flow down the channel systems things are looking crook. Yes, I too believe there will be many 'cheap farms for sale' soon.
But as you say, there are cycles in nature, and if we refuse (or neglect due to our ignorance) to live our lives - and farm the land - according to these cycles, then we must be prepared to suffer the consequences. Maybe the droughts and frosts (and the resultant fires that are bound to come this summer) will be a call for many to head the wills of nature, and to start to farm the land according to its capabilities, and at the same time being fully aware of the ever-changing weather cycles... maybe they will not. Maybe people will continue to blame their loss on the 'natural disaster' scenario, or that other one that comes up from time-to-time, an 'act of god'.
Yep, living on the land sure does give us an opportunity to live closer to nature, and to appreciate it in all its beauty and fury. I guess this is why permaculture appeals to me so much. It provides me with the philosophical foundations for living a life that is in harmony with nature. Take the last few frosts for example (we can get up to 60-per-year here): Each night before I retire, I go out and 'feel' the air. If it is clear and crisp, I cover those plants that are vunerable. Even if it does not appear that we are going to be in for a frost, I know from experience that they *can* happen at this time of the year, so i build up the straw around the spuds and sleep well knowing that I've at least prepared for the event, even if it doesn't come. Our fruit trees? No problem there, we have sited the orchard on a slope and we have left a 'drain' at the bottom of this area to allow the cold air mass to continue on its merry way down to the rear of the property. Of course your average, monocultural farmer/orchardist can't go out and individually cover thousands of potato plants, or grow fruit trees on perfectly designed, sloping sites with 'frost drains' factored in. He or she has to rely on BOM 'warnings', and turn the fans on (those things must suck a lot of energy?). Today's mainstream farmers (on the whole) have come to ignore the fickel nature of nature, and it costs them dearly, as it does the mainstream consumer when it comes time to purchase that piece of fruit at the local supermarket.
We are lucky. We will be eating fresh apricots, peaches and nectarines out of our small-scale, polycultural, biologically diverse, frost-proof orchard this summer. What we can't eat fresh we'll give to friends and/or nieghbours, or preserve for the winter months to come.
Good luck in your part of the land for the remainder of the growing season. May your harvest be bountiful, and may we all remember the lessons that nature is ever so prepared to teach us.
Cheerio, Mark :)
28-09-2006, 09:07 PM
Your thoughts on monocultural farming echo mine But I don't know whether mainstream farming will ever take any notice.I've been fighting with my father-in-law for years about rice farming and its abuses of land and water resources.For a start they try and grow it in an area in southern Riverina more suited to dry sheep grazing and complain about the lack and price of water every year.I've tried to convince him to move on to salt bush production for fat lambs, a more eco-friendly and indigenous foodstuff .He believes that the Riverina is "rice country" and the government should legislate to protect the industry and the water .Of course he voted One Nation as well!!!
How some of the older generation farmed was indeed more attuned to the rhythms of nature.My grandfather trusted his arthritis for rain and according to all was not often wrong.And he always watched what the ants were doing with their nests ,a habit I've continued.The large bullants always hill-up before rain---How do they know?--is it pressure, or smell,And the number of bees in his hives was watched carefully.In drought times their number declined but they built up before the break came -- how did they predict rain ? What is interesting is that in our district bee numbers are up considerably from last spring.Is that a sign of a break?-I'll watch them with interest .
Another almost infallible indicator of rain,believe it or not,is the double door glass-fronted fridge in our local pub.If it mists up or fogs up in the morning, rain is not far away.And lots of locals use it in tandem with BOM forecasts when ordering irrigation water.It's no use irrigating the day before rain , just wasting money.Some locals call in just to look at the fridge,others ring up.I've seen this fridge "predict" rain too often to discount it. It works as well as my old aneroid barometer!
As for your frost regulation,I'm jealous of your slopes.We are on dead flat land . I prune our fruit trees to a little over eight feet which makes them easier to cover and to pick.I also use bird netting because we suffer invasion from pest birds.Last Sunday my wife and I felt the chill in the air and covered what we could of our trees so we minimized damage somewhat.
It is a disgrace that we Victorians so utterly obliterated indigenous culture that it is hard to draw experience and knowlege from those left.We've farmed here for 150 years in what may have been a green era and maybe now are entering a period of more normal drought times. An historical diary I recently read ,recorded a savage frost in the Harcourt area in the 1850's which occured in November.It included an account of snow across the area in the same month .We certainly don't have records for a long enough period to be confident in ongoing climatic prediction
Cheers for now
29-09-2006, 02:37 PM
Hey Ecodharmamark, was wondering about your reference to Terrick Terrick NP. What's that?
29-09-2006, 11:40 PM
Terrick Terrick National Park (see: link below) is one of Victoria's last remaining remnant grasslands. It also features Mt. Terrick, a granitic outcrop, home to no less then 3 EVC's (ecological vegetation communities). Heaps of rare fauna and flora, and a 'feeling' that many of Australia's First People once called it home - a really nice place to spend some time.
The reference I made to it was in passing, the farming land surrounding the Park was my main point of focus in the previous post. It and the sheep it is trying to carry look appallingly dry and withered. Terrick Terrick is fine. These big granite outcrops act like big sponges, sucking up moisture from deep within the underground aquifiers.
Terrick Terrick has been around for millions of years, and if we do the right thing and continue to preserve it, it should be around for a little while yet.
Cheerio, Mark :)
http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_dis ... m?park=195 (http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_display.cfm?park=195)
Powered by vBulletin™ Version 4.1.1 Copyright © 2013 vBulletin Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.