After dinner at friends' house in Melbourne, and driving back through Pakenham on Tuesday night the smell of burning grass was distinct. There was a slight acrid smell of smoke. Not strong but noticeable. Nir coughed and coughed around midnight and I had to move him to my bed because I wanted to keep a check on his breathing and it took three puffs of the ventolin to settle him down. Yes, he has had some asthmatic cough in the past. Yesterday we went to the doctor to get a new script as he has not needed ventolin for ages and I was not sure how much was left in the puffer we have. Checked the use by date which was Nov 2013 so that was good but still it is handy to have a spare.
We had to go into Warragul to fill the script. Looking at the sky there were clouds of smoke covering the horizon and in some places you could smell the smoke. I saw some Highway police and stopped them to ask where could I get the latest information on the fires and what was happening. The young policeman said to me, 'Oh, that's only smoke. It's miles away.' I looked at him. ''Yes', I told him, 'But I do like to know where and how because you don't know how fast a fire with a decent wind behind it moves. You need to be aware of what is going on.' Later talking to my neighbour Julie and her family we agreed on a plan for the eventuality that a fire did race through Drouin and down onto our area where to meet about a kilometre from our houses which are about 600 metres apart. (Chatting over the fence takes on a new meaning here) They have a paddock which they lease out to a neighbour that does not have much grass at all and it is cleared. They also have a caravan and invited Nir and I to share with them in the worst case scenario.
The older police woman who was with the younger guy said to me, 'We are in real trouble if a fire comes down the hills to Drouin.' I agreed with her. It is a beautiful place. Lovely people and very pictureque, but very heavily wooded and a decent fire on a scorching day like Black Saturday and the town would be hard to save. Warragul is far more fire proof in that respect.
Our area is not so heavily forested. However the line of dead cypress trees on one side of the long driveway of our farm house would mean a fire would roar down the drive to the house and the open hay shed facing north which is filled with dry hay from the farm which is leased by a farmer from our landlord would mean that our house would be very unlikely to be saved in a big fire. J's family have the same problem. A huge hay shed filled with hay, facing north that would become an inferno in minutes or seconds in a fire and they have decking out the back which would mean they could not save their house. She said they would try but safety and lives come first. You don't take risks with the lives of your family and sometimes the safest option is to get to a safe area.
I think about our landlord's place further north and realise that he and his wife have a pretty fire proof place. There are no trees in close vicinity to the house and I think now I know the reason. He is a smart dairy farmer of Italian descent. When he spoke about not having trees close to the house, I understand totally what he means. Trees while great to have around the house, in times like this can be a death sentence and you need to have a fire plan.
Apart from going to the neighbour's field with wet blankets and the two air matresses and the air pump which charges off the car, I do have a plan to save probably only my laptop, Ipad and some flash drives if I can find them. That is possessions, of course, number one is getting my son out of there fast, with the two goats in the back of the car and the cat may have to take her chances if she is not around. It is very important to Nir to save Mitzi the cat. If Dolly is too hard to get into the car and we have a fire approaching, I will probably leave the old bugger. I am not about to risk my son's or my life by trying to push a stubborn fat old Boer goat into the back of the car. If she is too stubborn and difficult to move, she may end up a bbq'ed goat which the neighbours will enjoy. We will not be able to eat her as she has not been shechted properly.
Just as an aside, the vet came this morning and gave them both a booster vaccine and did the CAE testing on them. Osnat was simple to do. She is such a good little goat and very tame now. Follows me like a puppy whenever I go outside. Ma'aing and talking to you. We backed her up and took the blood from her neck, no problems. Not Dolly, of course. The vet and I had to jam her against the fence and it took three goes to take the blood for the CAE test.
The vet had to get her hair clippers and clip the hair away, because as she said, 'Boer goats are meat goats and very tough and have more flesh around the neck than dairy goats. Dairy goats are thinner and more elegant looking creatures.' Plus Dolly being an ex poddy goat (hand reared) has absolutely no respect for people and is not at all compliant with anyone's wishes except Dolly's desires which revolve mainly around food and more food and food and food and food.
Osnat I have trained to milk and to stand and I guess I could even train her to do a few tricks if I had the time, which I do not. She now ties up without almost killing herself through strangulation. When we first tied her up about four weeks ago, Rocky the landlord told me,'That new goat of yours will end up with a broken neck.' He had come through the laneway in his ute and Osnat has fled until the rope had snapped her onto her back, literally. I answered, 'Either that, or she will work it out and learn to tie up on a lead.' She is a smart goat. She learned to tie up. Dolly broke her collar the other day when the farmer who leases the fields for his calves came through in the lane where they were tied with a hay cutting tractor. Dolly took one look and leapt through the cypress trees and fled in fear. Being quite strong and muscular, she broke her collar and crashed through the dead cypress trees into the next paddock and if a goat could have screamed she would have. She was shaking in fear and it took me a few minutes to calm her down.
I have already put aside blankets for soaking in water and before I go to sleep at nights, I will pack up the laptop and a change of clothes. The main thing in a fire is to save yourself and your child/ren and animals if you can.
Seeing the sun rise this morning there is a red haze on the horizon but according to the weather forcasts, it will rain later tonight, so I guess we really have nothing to worry about. Our prayers should be for those up in Harrietville, Rawson and Walhalla. Walhalla is a lovely town set in the hills and is an old gold mining town. Beautiful place and we should all pray for the safety of everyone in that town.
People in the northern areas of Victoria have lost a lot and need to move stock to a safer area where there is feed. Fire and flood are a way of life in Australia and droughts too. That is just the way this land works and you have to deal with it. Up in Queensland, they have floods now.
Gotta go, the goat is getting into the Breed and Grow.
For those who want to check on the fires here is a link.