We went to Ged’s parents for Christmas Day. I wanted to leave at tea time but Ged was revelling in the bosom of his blood family and we we ended up staying after supper. There were storms brewing all day but only a smattering of rain in Beechwood. It was hot and humid. The lunch was lovely and we were all relaxed and chatty.
It rained on the way home and the dirt roads were damp, but when we got further down Tilbaroo we realised from the muddy puddles on the road and the depth of scrubby creek that there had been a significant rain event. We drove through the river and up the bank towards the house. The trampoline was bent in half and down near the river’s edge. Its green and black spring cover was draped over the swings by the flying fox. I opened the gate & the ground was spongy. I realised that half of one of the crepe myrtles was felled in front of Ben’s cubby. As I closed the gate I looked down the river flat and realised that the new timber caravan we have made as wwoof accommodation was no longer up on blocks. I walked down there in my strappy sandals and long summer dress. It had moved over 15 feet. What the hell had happened here?
Ged got Ben into bed and back to sleep (he had woken up when he heard us exclaiming about his trampoline) and then we headed off to check on everything. ‘We’d better take the chainsaw’ I told Ged. ‘Let’s just see what’s what’ he replied. We took hay down to the stallion, Sandy. The alpacas were completely freaked out and watching something warily. We couldn’t see anything. Sandy was drenched and lame on one hind.
Then we started over the hill to the other side of the farm. We didn’t get far before realising the road was impassable. I reversed down and turned around and we went back for the chainsaw. And then we spent two hours, in the dark and drizzle, cutting up and humping not one, but 5 trees progressively blocking our path. Just by the car headlights. Finally we got through at about 10.30pm and made it through the tree debris and mud to the other side. Every track was littered with branches and the short track to the Point Paddock was completely blocked with a big tree. More reversing. Then we got to the bees.
Or what was left of them. Or what we could see of them. We had to come back and put on our bee suits before going back to even begin to sort them out. It was an unbelievable mess. Massive, healthy trees ripped apart and dumped on top of the bees. Hives smashed, bees everywhere, branches on top of hives and branches blocking bee entries. They were stressed. I spoke gently to them as I moved branches ‘it’s all right, darlings, we’re trying to help . . . ‘ I really didn’t want to get stung.
We cleared around the hives that were still standing and worked our way over to the main mess. A huge tree had fallen on three hives. They were smashed to pieces. Bees were swarming. Ged said we had to come home and knock together the few new boxes he had (unpainted) and try and rescue the bottom boards and lids from the smashed hives to see if he could rescue the hives. It was just devastating. Brand new hives, newly painted, newly populated with nuts, and all going so well. It was so bizarre. Big, healthy trees wrenched off at half mast.
We were covered in bees and trying to brush them gently away before getting in the car. I got a few stings through my jeans and then a big one in my hand when I took my gloves off in the car. We stopped the car a few times on the way home to shed more bees and kept picking them off the dash and mirror and putting them out of the windows. I got a bit neurotic and stripped off my bee suit, convinced there was one in there. Having been stung on the crown of my head two days before, I didn’t want another! They really hurt!
We came home and I cleaned the house while Ged banged in the shed. He went backwards and forwards many times that night trying to save all he could of our precious bees and hives. I cleaned and cooked until 3 and then had a bath and went to bed to read. I was wired, I needed to chill out. He came in, showered and crashed after 4. So much for our nice relaxing Christmas night watching Downton . . .
I woke up at 6 and Ben was up soon after. He and I had a quiet breakfast together and let Ged sleep. And then we had to get started. We had guests coming to The Tree House so I got on with the cleaning, while Ged rang his parents to tell of the devastation and his Dad offered to come and help. In the daylight it was worse. We could see the full scale of the devastation. Huge beautiful trees uprooted or twisted off at half mast. Healthy trees. Strong trees. Limbs wrenched from trunks. Smashed branches everywhere. Every track, every paddock, littered with debris. We’d just been admiring how good it all looked before Christmas . . . pride before a fall and all that . . .
The cleanup will take a year. On the bright side, Ged reckons we will get some good fence posts out of the fallen trees. Team McCarthy came for a full morning or chainsawing and helping with all the mess. We are so grateful for that. We got the major farm roads cleared. Still plenty to do. In the daylight all agreed that we had been hit by a ‘twister’ or tornado. Every other farm fine. As I said to Ged, now I know what ‘An Act of God’ is . . .
As always we have plenty to do without cleaning up after Mother Nature’s wilful, savage, act of destructive fury. I wish she’d had her temper tantrum somewhere else. Oh well, we weren’t here to see it and Phoenix didn’t run away and the rest is all just time and money . . .
It just goes to show that we can’t leave the farm even for a day . . . and there’s no such thing as a day off for a farmer . . .