Wet seasons now and then

Host: Abingdon Downs Station
Written by Barry Keough – Owner, Abingdon Downs.

I love rain. I can never get enough of it so when the first rains come at the start of the wet season I am like a crazed child splashing about in the rain, often being referred to as a “loon”.

What the wet season means for us is many things – the end of another long hot season; the end of trying to earn a dollar and keep your livestock alive and well; the end of playing “mother hen” to all sorts of different personalities; and the end of having to play host to the constant stream of visitors. It also means the beginning of a long deserved rest and of thinking about Christmas and family. There’s the joy of not having to think about anything for a while. The beginning of being able to watch movies all day when the heavy rain sets in, and the beginning of a few sleep-ins (if you can turn your body clock after so many early starts!) just to mention a few . . .

Staff are usually gone when first rain comes or just before Christmas, whichever comes first. That leaves me, Campbell, Squeaky (head stockman) and Toni, plus their kidlets, behind for the wet. Once the wet arrives, depending on the actual rainfall total, Abingdon becomes too wet to get around so we are pretty much homestead bound. At least once every wet season our road is cut off from civilisation. Sometimes it can be cut off for weeks. That doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

5.1 Our only road out was cut off for weeks copyOur only road out was cut off for weeks.

Not only for me is it a joyous time but the livestock love it too. There’s nothing greater than seeing horses galloping wildly around after a shower of rain, stopping occasionally to snort or roll. The homestead becomes “echo valley” from the green tree frogs singing after rain. The grass starts to grow and turn green again in the paddocks so finally the wallabies move out of the homestead complex and our lawns begin to rejuvenate. And GREEN – everywhere you look it’s GREEN! Then the mowing is cranked up at a rate of knots. The combination of lots of rain and humidity makes the grass grow an inch or three a day, I am sure of it!

There’s still plenty to do over the wet, mostly maintenance work that never gets done during the year because it was just too busy. Mowing and slashing is generally a fulltime job. One wet season our mower had broken down so we ordered another one but our road was cut off. Our neighbour drove the mower as close as he could get to home where Campbell met him in chopper and proceeded to sling the mower home with the chopper. Would have made a great advert for Husqvarna!

5.2 Slinging a mower in during the wet copySlinging a mower in during the wet season.

Abingdon Downs sits on two large river systems, being the Einasleigh and Etheridge Rivers. The bigger one of the two, the Einasleigh, is situated approximately 1km from the Homestead Complex. It is a wonderful source of recreational activities as well as the main supply of water to the homestead and livestock. The sheer volume of water that comes downstream during the wet is simply amazing. Good wet seasons will see the river levels rise up bank to bank which can be up to 1km wide in some places. Prior to the wet starting the river has no run in it but the odd water holes remain. If you are super lucky and can catch the first run of water at the start of the wet it is absolutely mesmerising. To watch a dry river bed start filling with water, foam and debris being sent downstream is pure elation but also a very reflective time of the year you have just had. We like to take a beer or “two” to the river crossing and watch it.

5.3 First run of water at the River Crossing copyFirst run of water at the River Crossing.

5.4 The River Crossing on the Einasleigh in full flood. copyThe River Crossing in full flood.

We have been drought declared since 1st April 2013. In October of 2012 bushfires ravaged our shire and 85% of Abingdon Downs was burnt out. We weren’t too concerned as it was so close to wet season that we knew that we would eventually get rain. However, what we didn’t know was that for the next three years running we were to experience some very poor wet seasons. So after our bushfires we only received about 467mm for that wet season, compared to an average of 800mm. We have not had any winter rain since 2008. 2008 was a great wet season as we received a whopping 1525mm. Our Homestead Lagoon seldom goes dry and is always kept full from river water run off via an anabranch (a section of a river or stream that diverts from the main channel or stem of the watercourse and rejoins the main stem downstream) each wet season. Due to our poor wet seasons over the past few years there has been no run off at all and the Homestead Lagoon is on the verge of becoming dry. There are still a few crocodiles in there so they will probably be living in mud shortly.

5.5 The Homestead Lagoon as it is now copyThe Homestead Lagoon as it is now.

5.6 The Homestead Lagoon during a normal wet copyThe Homestead Lagoon in a normal wet.

5.7 This was Campbell trying to check the foot valve in amongst the overgrown lillies ( a Where's Wally moment) in the Homestead Lagoon before the drought hit copyThis was Campbell trying to check the foot valve in amongst the overgrown lillies ( a “Where’s Wally” moment) of the Homestead Lagoon before the drought hit.

So all of that being said I hope that we have an early wet. Forecasts are not good but hopefully there could be a change in the weather starting mid next year. Maybe we’ll finally get some winter rain! Whatever rain comes I’ll take it. People often laugh at me when I say “rain is soothing for the soul” but anyone in this industry would understand it. I am counting down the weeks before I can sit on the river bank with a cold tinnie and see some river flow . . .