Got a phone call from the Old man a few days back. Odd. Odd because as a rule in my family we are not especially clingy. I reckon I have almost 60 cousins on top of that numerous aunts, uncles and friends. But as a rule I don't make calls, visits or contact a real priority. I like to think this is a good trait - not being too needy. So if I get a call it's for a reason. Turns out he's got the flu, bit lonely. So I went up expecting to do some work.
Packed my kit, change of kit, food, drinks. Never go without food, water. Then proceeded to drive. On the first day of the fire I reckoned it was about 50Km to Dads. Wrong. It's closer to 75Km. I fueled up prior to leaving and checked the odometer. My preferred route is Warrandyte, KG, Wattle Glen, Hurstbridge, Nutfield, Doreen, Whittlesea, Humevale then KLW. Long way. Especially when you get stuck behind a diesel truck. Called into Whittlesea to pick up some bread, a pie. No KFF's in the local disposal store. Then proceeded to Humevale. I wasn't prepared for the amount of trucks on the roads. Going through the burnt-out sections of Humevale always puts things in perspective. You can get a sense of this when I first went up, Eltham to Kinglake West. The amount of tree damage is pretty high. Burnt houses dot the landscape. Active properties are marked with Australian flags. Even the cars have flags. On the sides of the roads various utility workers are chopping trees. Timber trucks race down the hill going the other way.
Going back to the property takes you past areas burnt out. But surprisingly a lot of houses still stand. One house I thought had burnt down prior to sale had not burnt down. But did sell. From the road you can tell who is home. There is simply not enough tree cover. I can see Whitely from the road. I pull in trying to remember the photos I'd been going through the day previous. For security, one half of the family photo album is in one location. The other half is here. But I got together a big chunk of images in my head of how the property was through the hundreds of shots taken. Get out - check for the dogs. One is small and cheerful. The other is big, loud and will tear you apart. Thankfully "min" was there to greet me. Turns out Dad was talking on the phone doing paper work. Chasing up some more insurance.
So what is there to do?
The property was bought in the mid seventies for growing plants. Exotic plants to be precise. Azaleas, Camelias, Rhododendrons and a sprinkling of others. So as long as I can remember we'd pack the kit into the car, hitch the trailers and work. Weekends, days off we'd be clearing, digging, planting, rotary hoeing, fencing, building, watering. But it wouldn't just be my family. We'd rope in our neighbours, friends, relatives. Looking back through the old shots I was surprised to see how many people turned up to help.
Take the buildings and the old outback dunny, later a firewood shed. It was a days work to set the slab. Then another to build the framework, lay the sheeting. It's just a slab now. A lot of work went into doing stuff like this. People we know, friends all helped get stuff like this built over many years. Stuff like this just doesn't get done without extra help. But the fun part was it never felt like work. Sure you'd be buggered. But you also got to do practical stuff: loading trailers, rope work, Fencing, clearing, burning (in cold weather lighting fires is an artform) using chainsaws, saws, driving tractors, slashing, rotary hoeing, ride motor bikes. The list goes on. Certainly this kind of stuff kept me active and out of trouble. When the work was finished there was time for sport, bush cricket. Hit the ball too hard and you loose it. BBQ's on holidays, cup days even if it poured rain. Summers are not as hot here. Down the hill it might get to 40, up at KLW it's 5-10 degrees cooler. Many a summer day spent here. Great stuff. The photos we captured bear this out. I certainly got a great practical education that put me in good stead in the future. I remember at Uni, class mates wondering just how I'd do some stuff on camp not realising I'd had to do this kind of stuff for at least 10 years.
We first checked around the house and Frank. Frank has been checked by the Tankman and had its liner replaced. There's a bit of heat damage. But short of replacing it completely, Franks stays. There is a risk it could rust. Then we checked over one of the Fire pumps. Survived and still in position. Had no trouble running the pumps while the fire was going, until the hoses melted. I mentioned to Dad the need for fire-rated nitrile rubber hoses. The problem with this is you then need to be mobile. You loose your mobility and ability to move in tight spaces. Note the chain securing the pump. Everything has to be secured.
Going around the house carefully I noticed that the fire was hot enough to deform the night-lights around the fence around the house I'd help build (to keep the Roos out) but not enough to burn or score the fences. The tap you see on the fence belongs to the portable water container shown here and here. In the background, what is left of the secure lockup shipping container.
I like axes better than chainsaws, bow saws better than axes. But if you have a lot of work to go through a chainsaw is your best friend. In this case an orange STILH 806. The chainsaw got cooked. The same chainsaw that was a bitch to start on cold winter days. The same chainsaw I almost cut my leg off when it bounced over a hardwood log. How many times did I have to sharpen these blades by hand?
Went past the numerous brick piles. Dad used some to build a conservatory adjoining the house to grow stuff in it. I have a real love/hate relationship with bricks.
They are useful things to have. They are durable and you can build useful stuff out of them. Each of the bricks I see in the shots bring back painful memories mainly the endless moving of bricks. Sometimes fun - like when I use them as weights in packs to carry up hills. But other times they are not as much fun. Like at my old home when I had to carry them out of a trailer, transporting them down the back-yard. Cleaning them, stacking. Then re-carrying them back to the trailer, stack them in the trailer to transport back to KLW. Transport them the hour or so, unpack them again. Again and again.
I still use bricks in my pack. But now I cheat and use the ones with holes. Solid ones weight a ton.
Whitely is a nickname name for ute dad picked up from a young rouse-about bushy after he drove the last car off into the bush early one morning when an oncoming car caused him to swerve. Bloke traveling behind him did exactly the same. Saw the lights, off the edge. The stickers are from the previous owner. Just love reading the titles:
- Congaro pub
- Yarck Hotel - where the farck is yark??
- Round up your mates, the Deni (Deniliquin) World Ute Muster
- Stenchcombe Eng followed by phone number
- Splat attack paintballing
- Don't risk it, use a licensed plumber
- Southern 60
- CatKiller (Catapiller)
- Is RUM is GOOD
- B & S Warriors: Circle working, Rum scullin', Piss cuttin', Legends.
- U beaut Ozzie ute
And various other uncouth stickers. Whitely has a few other quirks. Whenever you touch the begger the alarm goes off. So loading and unloading kit becomes an exercise in horns and sound. All that's missing is the oversized Roo lights, mudflaps and flying flag. Take this ute for example I saw the last time I was KLW.
A lesson on how to open the tail-gate. Use your hands, elbow? No just whack it with a brick. When you do this the car alarm goes off. Come to think of it, the car alarm goes off every time you touch it.
One of the things that really stood out was the number of flags around.
It's odd. I haven't seen this kind of flag waving in a long time. If you go overseas, maybe you might carry a flag or wear those AUS shoulder patches on your pack. At the entrance of every house or drive way would stand a flag like this. So I asked Dad why? His take is that it's a sort of rebellious act (maybe something akin to Eureka) showing little people have had enough of being pushed around by big companies, big government and other people. He also added it was also a form of hysteria. I must of counted 20 or thirty on the way up on road sides, in cars.
Everything that wasn't wood had been www.flickr.com/photos/bootload/3448625881/in/set-72157615... or scored by flame. All except my favourite piece of kit, the Trewalla. Many a stump has been pulled with this gear box. Plate steel no fire will kill it. There are lots of collections of stuff. Take for instance the pots. A pile of junk? No each pot had a plant which has a dollar value that can be redeemed by insurance. Looking at the trees around the place there are green shoots from the gums and red shoots. The red on black registers from the dim dark past. I do remember this colour combo. It was outside the front of my house. You could see the black tree trunks with the red new growth sprouting in the strong light against the blue sky. Much like what you see here. The
Generator I refer to in my talk. Works like a charm. You can watch the TV with it on, you just can't listen.">The generator that I refer to in my talk. Works like a charm. You can watch the TV with it on, you just can't listen. I will miss driving the Fordson beasts. They can be repaired. Solid. But will take time. The overwhelming thing that strikes me is the black sticks out the back paddock. Stand there and you can hear the wind blowing and see the Wallaby Creek mountain range behind. Something you never used to be able to do.
On the day of the fire after the main fire storm a man from Flowerdale appeared at Dawsons after walking in with bare feet. During this time various hoses had to be cut. Leatherman used this knife to cut some of the hoses to move pumps and pocketed the knife.
He appeared a few weeks later and handed the knife back. Such is the help of unknown strangers.
I set aside some time to walk around the boundary and take some shots. Starting from about here around the whole property. Probably only of interest to those who knew what it was like before. Just walking along the fence lines, taking shots at 0,180 and 270 degrees from the line. Got back and the big dog was loose. Used one of the Diamond Creek Tech door hinges hand built at Monsalvat to fend the begger off. Jumped up on Whitely and took some more shots until the thing was locked up again.
It was getting late by then. Had to leave. Went home via Humevale. The sun setting to the west. Light flickering where the black sticks for trees broke the sun.