A big wet!

Host: Country Downs Station
Written by Nikki Elizovech, Station owner/manager

The end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 hosted the biggest wet season that most of the Kimberley has seen in many years. By the end of March 2018, two cyclones and an intense tropical low system passed over the West Kimberley area and dumped a whole heap of rain on a very widespread area. Just the homestead at Country Downs has recorded ~1.9m of rainfall! And no that isn’t a typo, 1.9 metres of rain in about 4 months, whilst other areas around the station have had more rain than the homestead. Even so, Broome has recorded its highest ever rainfall year by the end of March having received more than 1.5 metres of rain. So, for most of us in the West Kimberley, it is safe to say that its been a big wet!

As producers, we love the rain. Even when we get more than we need or even (dare I say it!) too much, we still would much rather have it than not at all. Even with the erosion problems that have occurred on our station roads, the fact that we have bogged several vehicles and machinery, the work chain-sawing trees off fences is massive and the boundary fencing job had to be postponed and then done on foot trudging through sections under water. Even with that amount of rain potentially leaching the nutrients right out of the soil and thus impacting the vegetative quality of the pasture in a negative way for the rest of the growing season. Even with the blowing out of dams due to the amount of sand that has run into them making some of them about a foot deep and therefore not being able to hold enough water to support the number of cattle on them for even a week. And even with that amount of rain ruining our main access road, the Cape Leveque Road, thus impacting the potential to transport cattle off the property when we need to later in the year. Even with all these problems, we producers still love the rain and you will rarely ever hear a producer say, “I wish it would stop raining”. We might think “Oh jeez, this is a lot of rain!”, or even say “Wow, our work is really cut out for us over the next few months, ain’t it!” and yes sometimes some of us may even be overheard mumbling something like “that might be enough for the moment, you can rain again in a month or two”, but I seriously doubt you will ever hear a primary producer say “I wish it would stop raining!”. It just doesn’t seem to be in the vocabulary.

One of our dams. So much water fell that it filled the dam from empty (it’s a seasonal dam) to overflowing down the road in either direction for a couple hundred metres.

One of our station tracks after a few days of rain.

We returned to Country Downs at the end of February this year and came home to an absolute mess! Due to the amount of rain, most of the fence lines had not been able to be checked and those that had were still in dire need of trees being chain-sawed off and wires re-strung. Even now in May, we still have not completed the fence runs and still are not able to many access parts of the property with a vehicle. Not only that, the internal walls, floors and furniture of our house was completely covered in mould and 12months worth of cobwebs other vacancy related build-ups. Despite the initial shock and feeling of being overwhelmed by it all, we were still all so glad to be back. It was so green and beautiful, overgrown to the gunnels to be sure, but green and wet and deliciously damp, something that I hadn’t experienced for 12 months in the Pilbara.

The greenness and wetness of the Kimberley. One of the pigs enjoying a mud bath after some rain one day.

The first few weeks were a bit difficult, getting used to the humidity again, not being able to work a whole day in 35-degree heat due to the loss of body fluids (not like you can work in 45-degree heat in the Pilbara!). The tiring days of fixing fences, chopping and chain-sawing trees, fixing trap yards and other infrastructure damage due to the three massive weather events that happened in a matter of 6 weeks. And the oppressive humidity that would precede any rain and make you feel like you were melting just sitting down, even if under a fan. Nevertheless, it still felt good to be back.

Our work over the next few months, and the rest of the year, is cut out for us and we are slowly, but surely getting all those jobs done. The biggest problem we feel though is the state of the Cape Leveque Road. With all that rain and the road basically being a ‘creek-bed’ that all water flows down, there are sections on the Cape Leveque road that are seriously dangerous due to the sand deposits that have been created. This road is still such a busy road and it is highly probable that many accidents will occur over the next few months in some of these narrow and sandy sections. The shire is trying to do its best at maintaining the condition of the road, but with the number of vehicles driving on it every day, a freshly graded section is no longer smooth and easily navigable within a couple of days. Despite all of this though, the most exciting thing that looks to be happening this year is the laying of bitumen on the Cape Leveque Road! This is a project that has been talked about for years, however, has never come to fruition. Hopefully, this year 20 or so kilometres will be sealed by the end of the dry season and the remaining dirt sealed over the next 2-3 years enabling the many visitors and community members that use the Cape Leveque Road to have a safe and enjoyable journey to the various beautiful spots on the Dampier Peninsula. I know one thing is for certain, when that bitumen is being laid down in front of our gate, we will all be down there with our camping chairs and a beer (soft drinks for the kids!), no matter what time of the day, to celebrate the event.

On the Cape Leveque Rd. Note the spoon drains on either side of the “whoa-boy” flowing onto the road. This particular whoa-boy had a gutter along the front of it that you can’s see until you hit it…. The water came over the bonnet when we when down it.

Another section of the Cape Leveque Road completely under the width of the road.

Having come back to the Kimberley and settled back into the routine of Country Downs, we have been reflecting on what we have done and achieved over the last few years. We have been quite privileged in many ways. Having had many difficult situations that, we have no control over, impact our business (bushfires, live export ban etc) and we are still here and moving forward has strengthened us as a family, as a business and as individuals. What we have learnt over the last 5-6 years through the opportunities that have been made available to us has been our greatest achievement and asset. So much of what we are now doing is new and a little different in other people’s eyes. Yet there are many who are thinking along the same lines that to have a successful and sustainable business into the future we must be on the front foot with so many issues nowadays. We have come out of a few bad years, a couple of good years and to be honest, what we see around us and what we are envisioning into our future is proof that what we are doing currently is working for us and our family.

We love what we do, and we are proud of what we do. We have achieved a huge amount in a few short years, some of it done with no-one but ourselves believing in it. Many of the lessons learned have been a result of the failures we have had, the difficulties that we have had, but much of our success is due to the opportunities that have come our way and our intrepidness to take them and see if we can use them to improve our business and ourselves. We have many people to thank, too many to write down, for enabling us to achieve these successes. We hope that you have all enjoyed, or at least learnt something from our blogs over the years and as I said on Day 1, this will be our last year hosting on Central Station. We have enjoyed being a part of Central Station and believe wholly in its intention to provide everybody who is willing to listen, information and stories from those who live and work in our industry. I will leave you all in this final blog with a saying that has rung true to us and one that we believe is the reason why we have gotten to where we have and made us the formidable team that we are. Ciao Ciao, Nikki

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”

Quote by Calvin Coolidge, 30thUS President