Robin Tennant Wood

Professional Services - Research & Writing

After my exultant post about all the rain we had in January, El Niño arrived with a vengeance and since then, the Kookaburra Cottage rain gauge has recorded just 7mms of rain, plus one spider. The local weather guru, interviewed on the community radio station a couple of weeks ago, said that we needed a minimum of 96mms of rain to officially get us out of drought.

The green grass of early summer turned brown, then crunchy and a couple of heavy winds in May whipped up the dust on the road and the driveway, leaving the clay exposed and hard. I’ve been very grateful that I had the alpacas rehomed at the beginning of summer because there’s no feed in that paddock now. The small mob of roos on the property have been grazing down in the creekbed and around the dam, which was more a puddle more than a dam. The creek that bisects the property is an ephemeral stream, or chain-of-ponds, that rises about 400 metres further up the hill from me. I walked up there the other day and found that while the spring wasn’t running, the ground was still wet and the grass quite green, so I guessed that it wouldn’t take much rain to get it going again.

Tuesday was cold and a wet fog enveloped us for most of the day. A couple of times the clouds rolled in but there was no rain. Then Tuesday night I heard the familiar thumping of wings against the flyscreens on the windows. The rain moths were there. Four of five of them flinging rainmoth copythemselves towards the light inside and beating themselves against the window and door on the verandah. Rain moths are big, bigger than bogongs. The females can have a wing span of up to 16cms apparently, although the ones here weren’t that big – more like 10cms across, I’d estimate. They lay their eggs in the ground and the larvae hatch in autumn when rain is imminent. Or so the theory goes. Anyway, Wednesday dawned with a watery sunshine and very little in the way of clouds so I figured the rain moths may have got it wrong. It’s been known to happen.

Thursday was fine but there was a report of an intense east coast low system moving down from the north that would bring bucketloads of rain. Yep. Bucketloads. That’s the technical term. On Friday the warnings about the impending deluge started to get serious. Batten down all hatches and prepare for heavy rain and damaging winds, said the Bureau of Meteorology. The online interactive map had the rain arriving here at around 7.30am Saturday. I cut a couple of day’s worth of firewood and brought it inside and then put another stack of logs under the verandah awning where they would remain out of the rain. I noticed Ken over the road moving his sheep from the low paddock up to higher ground.

Saturday morning Rocky woke me, as usual, at around 6.45 by landing on the bed and demanding to go out. The pre-dawn was damp with a light misting rain. I checked the cover over the Alfa to make sure it was secure and did a quick walk around the house to make sure anything else that needed to stay dry would do so. Around 7.30, dead on time, the rain started to sweep in from the north-east.
Saturday afternoon I realised that water was building up against the side of the shed – the side where my generator and solar power batteries are. An hour later, and soaked, I had dug a channel to direct the flood away from the shed and crowbarred a brick out of a retaining wall on the other side of the shed to allow the dammed water behind it into the new channel.

As I write, Sunday morning, my rain gauge has recorded over 100mms of rain in just over 24 hours. The dam is overflowing, the main tank is overflowing, the new tank is filling, the flood mitigation work is holding (just), the creek is raging and there are two waterfalls cascading over the rocks on the far side of the creek. Ken’s low paddock over the road at Emu Flat is a large lake and there are reports that the road between here and Braidwood is cut in the usual places. The rain continues to fall heavily with no sign of a let-up until at least tomorrow.
It is true that in this country droughts are typically broken by floods. That being the case, the drought has broken. A La Niña winter will set us up well for spring. Those rain moths got it right again.


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