La Nina

24 08 2022

When I arrived in Tasmania for good almost seven years ago, Tassie was in the grip of its worst drought ever according to reports I was accessing at the time. Not that it looked like a drought to me having just left parched Queensland. But all the same, it was so dry I reversed my 2WD ute right down to the edge of the dam to collect all the trash from a tree I felled into said dam. Today I wouldn’t reverse the 4WD down there, I doubt it would come back up the slope! That’s how wet it’s been, and now they’re forecasting another straight third La Nina for the coming year. I suppose that if I had to choose between bushfires caused by El Nino and flooding rain I might choose the latter.

I’ve been waiting years to finish behind the house. The pandemic hasn’t helped of course, I’ve been topping up the berm where it’s settled with anything I could get including twenty tons of what the council calls mulch all moved with the old trusted ute. It still wasn’t enough. I then got wind that a builder on the other side of the valley was getting rid of topsoil, but refused to deliver it this far until I doubled their asking price. With staff shortages caused by the pandemic, it took a month before the first of two ten ton loads arrived. If only they’d managed to come earlier before the wet……. yes the truck got bogged!

Terry the driver dumped as much as would come out the back, but it was stuck alright. So I then rang Matt my neighbour to see if he’d come here with his digger to pull the truck out, after several unsuccessful attempts by yours truly with the the 4WD. There’s only so much a ute can do….

With the truck back in action, the rest of the soil was tipped out and he went back for the second load while Matt spread the black stuff where I wanted it. I ordered the soil sight unseen, that’s how desperate I was! Luckily, it turned out to be way better than expected, the pH is even neutral and it came with worms included!

I then bought half a bag of green manure seeds and rotary hoed them in for good measure. Plus it broke up all the clods, the soil was very wet….. And about to get a whole lot wetter!

Heavy rain had been forecast for the following day, but nobody was expecting what happened next. It just poured. And poured. The rain event to break all records. The Kermandie River broke its banks and flooded the lower portion of Geeveston.

Residents were even evacuated, it was bedlam. Meanwhile, behind our house the newly laid soil was unable to absorb any moisture and the area was starting to resemble the dam at the front of the house! Said dam by the way rose half a metre in 24 hours and it’s still the fullest I’ve ever seen it, continuously overflowing….

In a panic, I got out in my wet gear and started cutting a drain with a shovel, something I was going to do anyway, just not in pouring rain. Flowing like a torrent, the new drain simply couldn’t keep up with the deluge coming down the hill behind the house. And you guessed it, water came in the house…….

It wasn’t a huge amount of water, but enough to be a real pain, disrupting anything else we had planned. In the end we set up a syphon with a garden hose and it more than kept up with the water ingress. The water behind the retaining wall came up a lot higher than any other previous time and managed to actually get into the electrics inside the concrete filled blocks, tripping the earth leakage safety switch, so that now half our power points aren’t usable. It will dry out but it’s anyone’s guess how long that will take. It will be a week to remember!

The sun’s come back out and I’ve finished digging the swale/drain behind the house to catch future deluges. Now I hope that the green manure seeds don’t rot before germinating.

A dozen fruit trees have been planted in the new soil and the green manure is hopefully doing its job. I’ve since slashed it into mulch and it’s growing back blocking out weeds. With any luck we’ll have a food forest next spring..