Doctor and activist

Farm Update: Bushfire Time Day 3, 2/1/20

The air is better today, with the wind from the north-east, so we spent the day on the roof cleaning out the gutters. 

It terrifies me especially climbing up the slope to do the dormer window gutters, which were the most full of tiny pine needles.  Zincalum (Colorbond) is much more slippery than the old galvanised iron was as you are reminded with every step.  I always resolve that ‘This is the last time I go on a roof’, but it seems resolutions are easier to make than to keep. There is always some circumstance. 

I had always suspected that gutter guards were more trouble than they are worth, but today proved it for me. There was a more material under the gutter guard than on top of it, and it made the gutters much harder to clean.  Jan was cross, and having had the gutter guard installed at great cost ripped it off to make it easier to clean next time.  The object was to have the gutters so clean that no ember can find sustenance there, but obviously a few days of wind before a fire will undermine our efforts.  Gutters are dangerous in that they do allow a point for fires to attack houses and my brother says that in Western Australia, gutters are illegal in fire-prone areas.  This is logical, but the gutters are needed to collect water, and fortunately we still have enough of that at present- it is very expensive to buy it by the tanker load.

I had not realised how much material is blown up under the corrugations of a roof. Even with a 35 degree slope there are quite a lot of pine needles under both the ridge cap and where the roofing iron meets the valleys.  It is hard to get out, so we banged the tin to dislodge them.  I am not sure if it is a way that fire gets into the roof space, but it seems logical to try to remove them.

So that is the rant about roofs. Tomorrow I have to teach Jan how to use the chain saw, as the dead tree is still not removed, and persuade her that the pergola needs a more severe pruning.  We are going to get a real fire pump, which John says manage a higher flow.  Proper fire pumps, give a large volume quickly, so you can turn them off and not waste water. The one we managed to fix yesterday just gives a modest even flow.  John was a Fire Education Officer before his accident and was just a little offended that I raced off to be briefed by the fire team that he used to work with, but I assured him that prophets are never recognised in their own homes, so he took it in good part.

Tomorrow will hopefully be a quiet day and I may return to Sydney. My son, Mike and nephew Nick will come down as the relief team as Saturday expects heat and southerly winds, so the danger will be on again.  The fire is still 35 km away, so hopefully it will still be OK.

Everything is relative.  As we were on the roof a couple drove in with a double horse float. Jan went down and spoke to them.  They run a resort with 14 horses.  Jan has two of theirs already and they had brought 2 more. He said that he had done a google risk analysis and said that we were the safest farm for horses in the Southern Highlands because of the amount of open space between the trees on the road and the house and stables.  He has National Parks on all sides of his resort, which is mainly native eucalypt forest and he has only one access road.  He brought food for his horses seeking asylum.  The Moss Vale showground will take horses, but is very crowded and the rule is that you have to stay with the animals, which of course mostly means abandoning your property.

Time will tell. It is likely to be a long summer.

Arthur Chesterfield-Evans

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