Every summer, the tall trees drop dry, dead and yellow leaves when the hot winds from the centre of this largely arid continent blow through their branches. And this happens every year. During those hot windy days it is hard to spend time outside as the sun is oppressive. On some summer nights that hot wind continues to blow and it feels as if the continent itself were exhaling all of that unwanted heat in one huge long breath directly over this forest.
This past year has been notable because following on from the coldest winter in 26 years, the months of October and December both produced record breaking heatwaves for this corner of the continent. An observant person may suggest that the weather extremes are becoming more extreme.
|December heatwave temperatures as they happened|
And with that heat come the bushfires. On Saturday afternoon, I could see from this eagles eyrie, a huge column of smoke which was the Scotsburn bush fire.
|A huge column of smoke rises from the Scotsburn bush fire|
So far, the Scotsburn fire has burned 4,600 hectares (11,500 acres). Observant readers may note in the next photo from only a few hours later just how far and fast that fire had moved across the landscape:
|The Scotsburn fire had travelled a considerable distance in only a few hours|
The heat and fires are hard on the wildlife as the forest is just hot and dry. I’ve noticed that as the heatwave wore on the usually placid Kangaroos were getting a bit ratty:
Fortunately, the kangaroos soon settled their differences and went back to eating.
It is not just the Kangaroos that are distressed by the extreme heat. On Sunday I spotted two koala bears roaming around the forest early in the morning. It is a remarkable thing to see one Koala bear in a month, let alone two in one morning. Clearly they had to leave the shade of their tall favourite trees to travel down to the creek for a drink of water. I found one of those Koala’s ambling across the road at their glacial Koala-like pace, so I gave the koala a bit of assistance crossing the dangerous (for them) road and motivated him to climb up into a very shady Cherry Ballart tree (which is a native fruit tree). A couple of hours later I went back to check on him and he was still happily asleep in the shade of that tree. He had moved on by the early evening.
|I assisted a Koala bear to safely cross the road and climb into the dense shade of a Cherry Ballart tree Sunday morning|
The bee hives are both kept in the afternoon shade which helps keep them cooler than if they were positioned in the full sun. It is interesting to note that placing hives in the full sun is often the advice given by bee books – but that advice is inappropriate in an area subject to this sort of extreme weather. Despite being in the shade, the air temperature was still over 40’C (104’F) and the bees were clinging to the outside of the hive enjoying a bit of fresh air.
|Bees cling to the outside of their hive to enjoy a bit of fresh air during the recent heat wave|
The other bee hive, which is the new experimental bee hive, has far less bees than the older better established hive, so they weren’t as stressed by the heat. But as you can see with Bee Cam ™ they were still very active on those hot days.
|Bee Cam ™ shows just how active the new experimental bee hive was during the recent heat wave|
Adaption to the weather is my motto and after a few days the heat becomes the “new normal”. Adaption doesn’t mean giving up my homemade bread loaves and so I simply placed the solar powered electric oven outside in the shade which works a treat! Hmmm, freshly baked bread without heating up the kitchen!
|Baking bread outside in a solar powered electric oven is the way to enjoy freshly baked bread on obscenely hot days|
Adaption also involves watering the tomatoes, vegetables and berries at night. I have very limited water supplies and watering at night allows the water to percolate into the soil without being lost to evaporation. Some of the younger fruit trees in the orchard that were struggling received the occasional half bucket of water, but most of the 300 fruit trees simply struggled through and some of the older and more advanced trees showed no signs of heat stress at all. In hot weather, the young nut trees struggle the most of all and a couple of hazelnut trees and one of the pecan nut trees died over the past week.
|The author watering some of the plants during the hot evenings this week|
Observant readers will note the two kangaroos in the background placidly munching away.
Some of the wildlife readily adapts to hot weather and I spotted this Southern Brown Tree frog who spends all day in the cool damp gully trap. The frog then leaves the gully trap in the evening to enjoy some choice insects from the garden, before returning to the gully trap again as the dawn sky starts to light up.
|A Southern Brown Tree Frog emerges from the cool and damp gully trap for the house|
I found another frog – who is clearly something more of a daredevil than the one above – living in the drain for the chickens water within the chicken enclosure. I only found the frog when I accidentally disturbed it and it began making a noise like a squeezed rubber duck toy. Fortunately the frog was whisked away to safety (by me) before the chickens could eat it! That frog leads a precarious lifestyle but benefits by also enjoying access to regular water when many of its friends in the forest don’t.
And speaking of precarious lifestyles, for the benefit of the readers of this blog I went outside into the scorching afternoon sun with the camera during the heatwave and took a few photos to show you how the garden responds.
|The garden at mid-afternoon during the recent record breaking December heatwave|
|The garden at mid-afternoon during the recent record breaking December heatwave|
|The garden at late-afternoon during the recent record breaking December heatwave|
One group of plants that I chose to water every evening for about 10 minutes (which is equivalent to about 170 litres or 44 gallons per day) was the tomatoes. If tomatoes get a bit of water they can shrug off the hottest of days and Tomato Cam™ shows that the plants had huge growth this week:
|Tomato Cam™ shows that the plants had huge growth this week|
This week’s heatwave gave me incentive to consider the plight of the chickens if a bushfire were to occur here. Despite the heat, I added a small gravity fed sprinkler which can sit on top of the chickens deep litter mulch and keep the area damp.
|A Silky chicken investigates the new gravity fed sprinkler fitted to the chicken enclosure|
The chickens are less than impressed with this sprinkler! I also constructed a steel swing for them to play with and they seem even less impressed by that. The swing can be adjusted, so over the next few months I’ll keep adjusting the height until the birds start to use their toy. Observant readers may also be able to spot a very hot looking Scritchy who wants to assist the chickens learn to use the swing.
|The chickens look unimpressed with the modifications to their deep litter enclosure|
Berries are still plentiful, although the strawberries have now gone on strike and have stopped producing. I’m unsure if this is due to the heatwave or it may be that the plants themselves which are in their third year have now stopped producing fruit? The future strawberry project which will hopefully be completed before next spring should have the strawberries grouped according to age.
|Berries are still plentiful despite the heatwave|
There are now so many black currant fruit that I have no idea what to do with them all. Fortunately, the editors wine making skills were brought into action and we have now produced Black Currant wine and it has the most beautiful and interesting colour:
Finally yesterday afternoon the cool change swept through and the editor and I sat out in the brief rainfall with cooling winds and enjoyed a coffee.
|The cool change and brief rainfall swept through the farm yesterday afternoon|
The temperature outside now at about 2.30pm is an enjoyable, overcast and very cool 18.8'C degrees Celsius (65.8’F). So far this year there has been 702.8mm (27.7 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total 698.2mm (27.5 inches).