This year is supposed to be wetter than usual, but so far we haven’t seen much rain. It is dry and dusty, we are getting low on water and there is a lot of smoke on the horizon. In response, we are doing our yearly clean up and fire safe activities.
The hay pile
The round bale we have kept for the sheep has been the source of all our bedding hay for the Winter. The sheep pull the bale apart and eat what they want from it, then we rake up some of the fallen hay to change the animal bedding. This is part of our mulch creation process; every scrap of hay is used three times, as food, as bedding then as mulch. Now fire season is here, it is time to rake up the fallen hay and take it straight to the potato patch.
Cleaning out animal pens
The animal pens are more comfortable with hay in them as bedding and in Winter we make sure everyone has a deep covering of hay to snuggle into at night. The bedding is changed monthly (or more often) and used to mulch our new and growing potato bed. Now it is getting hotter and smokier it is time to go back to bare earth.
The mulch pile
The hay that is cleaned from the animal pens doesn’t make it up to the potato patch straight away, it is dumped over the fence into a pile and left to sit until someone gets around to taking it up to where it needs to go. Now the ground has become dust it is time to tidy that pile back to nothing.
Raking up fallen leaves
As usual, the leaves and bark build up against fence lines and walls. The work of clearing them away goes on throughout the fire season.
Moving flammable things away from the humpy
Anything that looks like it will burn has to be moved to a safe distance. That includes anything plastic or wood and anything that could have a pile of leaves hiding behind it.
Putting the tank and pump on the ute
The ute we bought last year as a fire fighter has been fitted with it’s tank and a pump. We have all had a go at starting the pump and filling the tank (although I hope I don’t ever have to do it alone). It will be a mobile fire fighting unit for ourselves and our neighbors.
Wetting down the mulched areas
There are two mulched areas around the humpy; one is the front garden (where I have two small beds) and the other is the potato patch. The beds in the front garden get regular small amounts of water from the washing and the animal water pots, that means they are fairly damp all the time and they are also under the humpy sprinklers.
The potato patch doesn’t get as much water, so we have started using the water from the ute tank to water the potatoes on a weekly basis. That means that the mulch is damp underneath (and less likely to burn) and that the potatoes get regular water. It also gives us a chance to test the pump on the all important mobile fire fighting unit. My partner usually pumps the water into the ute and waters the potatoes, because he’s good like that.
Filling spare tanks
There are several small tanks stationed around the humpy with pumps and hoses attached, they are there to provide a second line of defense if the fire starts to send off embers and sparks in the direction of the humpy. We have checked and filled them all from the dam.
Setting up spot fire stations
In addition to the tank and pump set ups, we have a small bin on each side of the humpy. These are filled with water and an old towel or two placed nearby. These are for close spot fires and to provide a wet towel to fire fighters (aka; us) if things get too hot.
There is always more to be done, and we hope that the humpy will get more fire safe each year. We plan to clear the fallen branches inside the fire break area next year and the sheep will be fenced into the fire break zone to keep the vegetation low. More tanks are in the pipeline too (there is never enough water).
We are mostly ready just in time; the RFS site ‘Fires Near Me‘ has posted up the fire that has been burning slowly behind our property. It looks to be under control for the moment, but is only 1 km away from the humpy. This fire is probably safe, but this is just the beginning of fire season.
Note: this fire was bought under control after a few days. I left this bit in the post to illustrate the tension involved in fire season for everyone in our area (and many others). Every year the fire seasons seem to get worse and the preparations more extreme. The rainfall is less, the Summer heatwaves are longer and hotter and the fires (when they start) are fiercer. We do our part to mitigate climate change here in our humpy, but it is too late and too little to prevent a huge change in our world. The best we can do is to plan for the worst, but expect the best.