There mightn't be much pitter patter here at Boolcoomatta lately but there are certainly many positives to the conditions as well.
As I live fairly close to Boolcoomatta, I’m often on reserve to help Reserve Manager Kurt and other volunteers with various tasks or to take on caretaker duties while Kurt is away.
A couple of months ago we completed an exclusion fence out on the eastern plains to help understand how grazing by kangaroos affects the vegetation and landscape. The area is about six hectares and is enclosed by a 1.8 metre ringlock fence. Between all of us it was a fortnight of solid work.
The ground is so dry that digging holes and erecting posts was easier as the soil is very compacted and holds together as the cement is poured in. The conditions also helped with the installation of the intermediate droppers along the fence, which we drove into the compacted dirt with a petrol-driven knocker.
As well as the dry soil there is very little vegetation so we were able to run out the fence materials with minimal impact and there were no pesky prickles to annoy you while lying down to clip on the bottom wires and foot-mesh.
We've also been able to work on flood gates on the major creeks in preparation for a major rain event. This will ensure that when floods come only the 'sacrificial' sections of the fence will be damaged, allowing for quick and easy repairs.
Late last year Kurt arranged projects to work on soil erosion sites. A number of volunteers and staff helped to place brush packing across the disturbed areas and pegged it down ready to slow water flowing through the eroded areas when it rains. The brush (branches from shrubs like acacias) was collected from overgrown tracks, and while some was old dead shrubs, much was cut green and so brought much needed leaf litter and seeds into this new area. It'll be interesting to see the result of this enormous amount of work when the rain finally comes.
The lack of vegetation also has some other positives. It's interesting to see the relics of a bygone pastoral era being revealed as the growth decreases. Old farming camps and items appear in the most unexpected places. The evidence of those pesky rabbits is also revealed, which adds data to help with the strategic goals of rabbit control by allowing us to see where warrens are.
Is it dusty here? Yep, sure is. However, experiencing a dust storm is very different to seeing it on the news. The dust rolls in off the plains almost daily, giving excellent sunsets and sunrises. It covers the animal tracks from previous days and allows me to see which different animals have travelled at night. Very educational for the beginner tracker I can assure you.
I guess there are plenty of downsides to the drought and the tough, harsh conditions but it's possibly a once in a lifetime experience. Eventually the rain will come, the joint will be flooded and the flowers will arrive. The creeks will flow a banker and the fences will wash away as will the tracks. Everyone out here will be stranded waiting for the creeks to go down and the roads to reopen. I guess it's just part of the big cycle and as much as I like the dry conditions I will enjoy seeing the homestead dam fill and the waterholes full.
So that’s the state of play here at Boolcoomatta. Dusty, hot and dry but on the other hand very beautiful with magnificent sunsets and sunrises. Wide open plains and steep rocky hills. Clear skies with a hint of rain in the air.