Life returns to scorched earth

Meg, Debbie, Ben and Graham Armour are all smiles after Mother Nature's recent downpours have turned their burnt fields to green.
Meg, Debbie, Ben and Graham Armour are all smiles after Mother Nature’s recent downpours have turned their burnt fields to green.

While the much needed recent rainfall has brought smiles to the faces of farmers across the Shire, none are more grateful than those recovering from the Minjary fire which unforgivingly blackened a huge mass of farmland between Tumut and Gundagai on Saturday, January 18.

From the dust and ashes, new life has rapidly sprung, with fields that were once completely devastated now showing off a glorious green, bringing hope back to the farmers whose livelihoods have been at risk.

The Armours were amongst those most affected by the January fires, suffering 100 per cent burn-out to their Gocup property and losing 136 ewes and being forced to sell 600 more sheep after their pastures were turned to ash.

Now with recovery in full-swing the local farmers are extremely grateful for the recent wet change.

“We could not have asked for better weather to recover after the fire,” Graham Armour said.

“We struggled a bit at the start but from the Batlow show onwards the conditions have been great.

“I am really surprised at how well it has picked up.

“It’s not as good as what it looks because there are a few weeds, like Patterson’s Curse and thistles in there, but it certainly is a huge improvement.”

His wife, Debbie agreed.

“You can’t even tell it’s been burnt,” she said clearly amazed at how quickly the mass of black had transformed into luscious green.

“It’s really jumped back to life.”

After the fires, the Armours had 400 remaining ewes, all of which have been held in a local property nearby.

Now, as a result of the rain, the stock is being gradually brought back home, 145 ewes already having been reintroduced to the property and more to steadily join them.

The Armours agreed that the general vibe of the neighbourhood since the rain has been nothing but positive.

“Everyone’s is upbeat, doing what needs to be done and moving forward,” Mr Armour said.

Mr Armour said that while the rain has slightly interrupted fencing, no farmer was complaining.

“We have a total of 17.3km of fencing to get done and so far we have done only 2km so we still have a fair bit to go,” Mr Armour said.

“The hard work of pulling down the old fencing, clearing the fence lines and cementing has been done though so it shouldn’t take long to get the rest of it done.

“We are getting a bit held up by the rain which is ‘terribly good’ – no one’s really minding.”

Mr Armour said that if conditions continue as they are they will look into purchasing more sheep in the Spring, when prices are more reasonable and as it allows the pastures time to build up.

The Armours are also delighted with the health of five poddy lambs all of whom just managed to survive after their mothers died in the fire.

Mr Armour insisted that the hobby farmers be acknowledged for the difficult times that they are also going through after the fires.

“You don’t seem to hear much about the hobby farmers but they have been just as affected by fires,” Mr Armour said.

“Whether the loss is big or small it is still a loss that has struck them not only financially but emotionally and it is often harder for them to get themselves back on track because they don’t live on the properties and most only have weekends to come out and fix things.”

Almost three months after the Minjary fire destroyed much of the Armour's property, pastures have rapidly sparked back into life.
Almost three months after the Minjary fire destroyed much of the Armour’s property, pastures have rapidly sparked back into life.

Another farmer extremely grateful for the recent downpours and in recovery mode after the Minjary fire is Gordon Lindley.

Although his Wyoming property was not completely burnt out like the Armours, Mr Lindley lost 60 ewes, heavily in lamb, to the blaze and was forced to move all his livestock out of his fields as the animals had nothing to graze on.

“We got out pretty lightly,” Mr Lindley said.

“It could have been a lot worse, but even so, there is still a lot to be done to get back on track.”

It is the second fire in eight years that has burnt through Mr Lindley’s property, the previous one having caused a similar amount of damage.

Like all the farmers affected by the fires, Mr Lindley is currently in the process of putting in new fences with 12km finished and a fair bit still to go, which he is hoping to get completed in the next few weeks so that he can continue to bring stock back.

“A lot of my stock is away in other local pastures at the moment and I am slowly getting mobs back in,” Mr Lindley said.

“Last week we brought the first mob back and we are looking at bringing back another one this week.

“The cows are about ready to calve so we are hoping to have them back to the property before then so we are working hard to at least have the boundary fences completed.”

Mr Lindley admitted that if it weren’t for the rain, his livelihood as a farmer would have been very much at risk.

“If we hadn’t had this rain we would be seriously considering selling off the majority of our livestock because we just would not have been able to maintain them especially once the frost comes,” Mr Lindley said.

“The rain has certainly helped out, the country is recovering really well and we are slowly getting back on track.

“The rain really has brightened up people’s spirits.”

Both the Armours and Mr Lindley are hoping that the rain continues over the next few weeks and the temperature remains mild.

They are also requesting Mother Nature hold off the frosts for at least another six weeks.

Only a tree here and there remained after the fires of January.
Only a tree here and there remained after the fires of January.