Flat White

It’s Flannerying at the farm and we’re going under

20 March 2021

4:44 PM

20 March 2021

4:44 PM

Tim Flannery promised me a desert, but all I’ve got is this brand new murky-looking ocean full of confused kangaroos. 

Approximately a billion litres of water has fallen on the Mid North Coast in 48 hours. If you’re not sure how to visualise that, imagine that one of those Chinese mega-dams I was moaning about earlier has burst its shoddy concrete girth and inundated the prettiest tourist spots on the East Coast with a man-made tsunami full of Range Rovers. Actually, a tsunami would have been preferable. At least you know what you’re in for instead of gazing at the endless grey sheet in the sky trying to divine some kind of meaning. 

#FarmLife is often described as the eternal struggle between wondering if it will ever rain again and being certain that the rain will never stop – interspersed with periods of ‘is something on fire?’ 

This week, we copped a natural disaster – one of those times when the sky opens up and decides to screw with your life in particular with no end in sight. There are kangaroos swimming up to the edge of our first-floor balcony, bandicoots clinging to the water tank, and the ominous sound of fridges and tables falling over underneath, splashing to their demise. 

To the panicky inner-city-green-concrete-dwelling-environmental-crusader, this week’s deluge appears to be a victory for the ‘end is nigh’ hashtag. If it weren’t so bloody wet, I’m sure that they’d be out with the glue sticks attaching themselves to the tarmac somewhere between a feminist rally and a Black Lives Matter smash’n’grab. I mean, they were slightly wrong about the type of climate apocalypse on offer, but Extinction Rebellion have been perfectly sensible when it comes to changing their official dogma to match pretty much anything that doesn’t resemble a Scotty From Marketing tourist ad. 

It is worth pointing out that this weather is not entirely unexpected. Aside from the fact that our ancestors put the house on pretty tall stilts (that was probably a hint), the pristine beach sand beneath our farm is covered in two metres of black river silt. I hear all the geologists mumbling into their coffee, ‘Ah-ha – a clue!’ 

The multi-million dollar riverfront properties around Port Macquarie where the Riviera’s are parked are essentially reclaimed mosquito-infested swamp. It’s morbidly hilarious to watch local journalists feign shock for click-bait, overusing words like ‘unprecedented’ from the comfort of their high rise apartments when nature intrudes into their pristine world. Perhaps if they stopped talking up the climate apocalypse regarding every random storm, residents would be able to determine when a warning really is serious. Journalists are the idiots scrambling into the village to cry wolf in exchange for cash. Well, kids, the wolf is here. This is a proper bit of rain. 

Our family has been in the area since settlement so it is fair to say that my grandfather’s local weather knowledge, before he passed away, was of a higher quality than the BOM’s predictions. The Mid North Coast exists on a hundred-year cycle. You get four or so years of drought followed by huge floods. The last big flood was 1920 which means that this one is right on schedule. 

There’s nothing surprising or apocalyptic about it … unless you live in Coffs Harbour, but that place occupies a permanent spot on the weather gods’ shit list. Another 600mm in the next thirty-six hours? Turnbull should have built his Snowy-Hydro-Two-Point-No along their main street which spends half the year identifying as an asphalt waterfall. 

Come to think of it, the BOM has been pretty rubbish when it comes to predicting this sort of stuff. Week to week, the local ants have a better track record. ‘Heaps of rain’ is usually indicated by the transportation of eggs into your house along with half a dozen pet Tarantulas. ‘No really, a lot of rain’ is when the cows come around the house paddock and stare at you for an uncomfortably long period of time. 

Maybe the BOM would have more luck if they didn’t keep changing their historical records to fit IPCC panic graphs? 

Even on the eve of calamity, all we got from our friendly government bureaucracy were a few vague warnings that ‘it might be a bit wet’. What those warnings did not say was, ‘HOLY SHIT GET SOME FLOATIES FOR YOUR COWS’. 

Before you know it, everyone’s crap has drifted out of their homes and is bobbing down the river like an aquatic version of eBay – except that it’s all free for those in possession of a canoe. 

Just once I would like to see some honest warnings. ‘Your road may be unsafe due to floodwater,’ translated to the far more instructive, ‘Your road is an OCEAN infested with bull sharks. Like the spoon in the Matrix, it does not exist.’

While I try not to think about the fact that my furniture has floated off along with all my nan’s precious books – or that our poor cattle are standing around doing their best impression of whales – I thought I’d share with you what happened the last time there was water a catastrophic climate apocalypse. 

Disclaimer: don’t do this. 

The left would have us believe that masculinity is ‘toxic’. Rubbish. It is the stubborn testosterone man-ness that triggers a bloke’s primal ‘rescue complex’ section of the brain. Upon hearing that my mother and I were trapped in floodwaters, my brother decided to discard everything and race to our aid. 

In what could easily have amounted to a Darwin Award, he borrowed a hire car from a city dealership – promising not to take it off-road – before promptly driving the poor thing up our dirt road until floodwaters stranded it on an ungainly patch of gravel. 

From there, my brother armed himself with an empty Coke bottle. He brandished it as weapon, setting off into the endless lake of water imagining himself to be Bear Grylls. 

Our dirt road traverses a terrifying bush landscape with the ocean hidden behind the scrub ten kilometres away on the right and the river snaking through farmland to the left. On this day, there was no distinction between land and brackish water. The whole area was one great murky lake, with the road marked only by enormous Tea Trees writhing in thousands of spiders seeking refuge from the water. 

Anything sitting above water had become a life raft for the insect community, something which my brother discovered when he narrowly avoided a giant ball of ants rolling across the surface of waist-deep water like they were Zorbing. Below the surface, shovel-sized spiders took personal bubbles of air down, scuba diving their way to safety. 

There aren’t many times in your life where you hesitate and recognise that you have made an error. This was one of them. 

Neck-deep, he was outpaced by a swimming kangaroo – a bizarre sight with only its tiny head above the surface. It was glancing over toward where the river would normally be, kicking its legs faster with its tail swinging out behind it like a black snake. The terror in its eyes were not on account of my brother. It was more like, ‘Bro, swim faster’. 

It was only then that my brother realised the river was normally infested with bull sharks – bull sharks which were now patrolling their vastly increased territory with a bad attitude. 

Not being bitten, stung, drowned, or eaten along the eight-kilometre swim was a point of great discussion as we sat on the balcony later, drinking wine and staring down at the thick band of spiders stuck to the house just above the waterline. They seemed to have called some kind of evolutionary truce with the birds who formed an angry line of pompoms along the railing as if they had been put through the washing machine on the towel cycle. 

Truthfully, it was a non-event when five days later a helicopter landed on a tiny rise of exposed land and asked if we were the Rural Fire Service. We immediately ambushed them for supplies, stealing away with bread and sausages. 

When you live on the land for long enough, you realise just how little the planet cares about your survival. Sometimes nature feels downright spiteful. The human race could look after its home perfectly for a million years, and the next day a rock the size of Madagascar would crash in and screw everything up. That is the point, really. Our world is a product of cataclysm and we are a highly adaptive species that found a way to survive. 

The idea that a temperature similar to the Roman Warm Period is some kind of scorched Earth scenario is a nonsense and certainly no excuse for regional councils to declare ‘climate emergencies’ instead of building infrastructure. 

What was the reason our public servants didn’t build any dams during that massive drought last year? Was it frogs or some muppet that promised it would never rain again? I can’t remember. All I know is that it’s Flannerying down outside. 

If you have an extra cent spare for a coffee this week, it would mean a lot. 

Alexandra Marshall is an independent writer. If you would like to support her work, shout her a coffee over at Ko-Fi.

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