Our neighbour Hanno finds the walk to school arduous. So when he goes to pick up his big sister Eve in the afternoon, Jens takes him in the wheelbarrow. And sometimes after a big day at kindy, Eve hops in too for a lift home.
Jens and Tash used to have one of those Dutch bicycles with a child capsule on the front of it. Both kids fitted, side by side. But they lost it in the fire when their house burned down.
The fire happened six days after Christmas and four days after Eve’s birthday. Tash tells me that sometimes they remember presents that were in the house. ‘Burnt?’ says Eve. ‘Yes,’ says Tash, sad face. ‘Burnt.’
I wheeled down to the road at 5.30 am, moved by the concept of the ‘driveway dawn service’. I wasn’t sure if my Bermaguee Street neighbours would be partaking, and when I reached the street, mine was the only light. So I headed up to the cenotaph in case there’d been a social-distancing rebellion – no-one. But I knew that Helen and Peter Taylor would be out the front of their place in Bega Street with candles and wreath – and a radio. The ABC was broadcasting live the service at the War Memorial in Canberra.
After Council connected Quaama to the Brogo Dam supply in 1984, they sent a truck through the village collecting everyone’s rainwater tanks. ‘You won’t be needing these anymore—let us do you a favour and remove them for you!’ They needed people to pay for household water now—the last thing they wanted was people collecting their own.
But by the time we built our new house in 2008, the NSW Government was offering rebates for every new tank connected to toilets or washing machines. And development approval relied on such environmental features too.
Many Quaama residents collect rainwater from their roofs now. For those who don’t, their share soaks into their garden, or runs off into the channels that Council digs along the roadsides, breeding mosquitoes and frogs until it seeps into the ground or evaporates. But at least the rain ‘stays where it falls’—one of the main tenets of Michael Mobbs’s presentation to the Bermagui Institute in February. Mobbs, the ‘Off the Grid Guy‘, has disconnected his inner-Sydney home from mains water and sewer (and electricity) and promotes sustainable living.
1.30 am, New Year’s Eve. The FiresNearMe text: Put your plan into action. I hear a vehicle down on the road, coming in from the forest. Then another. Soon, a constant stream.
2 am. We’re backing down the driveway, in two cars. I have the dogs, food for them, water, my walker, and the Mechanic has my scooter, our documents bag and the go-bag, which has been sitting in a corner for weeks.
Down at the Quaama fire shed an RFS guy stops us.
Do you know anyone out at Verona? he says.
Lots of homes are threatened. We can’t get out there, not enough of us.
Later, too late, I wondered if he wanted us to ring and warn them.
Every year in late August, convoys of semi-trailers converge on two big almond farms outside Mildura on the Murray River. They have journeyed from Queensland, South Australia and from all over NSW and Victoria. The cargo? Bee hives.
‘Almond growers have built a landscape that’s very good at creating almonds but it doesn’t have the ingredients that these insects have evolved with’. That’s Dr Saul Cunningham speaking, and he means that pollinators need nesting sites and diverse foods. After all, almond trees flower for just two weeks. Monoculture crops like those huge almond orchards cannot sustain natural pollinators, creating a market for beekeepers who subsidise their honey businesses by renting out their bees at a current rate of $70 a hive. It doesn’t sound like much—until you realise that those almond farmers need 180,000 hives every year. That’s an annual road trip for about a third of Australia’s honey bee population.
Saul Cunningham is Director of the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University and specialises in the area of maintaining biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. He was speaking at the Bermagui Beach Hotel on 2 May as a guest of the Bermagui Institute. His topic: ‘Is there a bee crisis?’
Al salam Alaikum. Peace be upon you. And peace be upon all of us …
For many of us, the memory of the terrorist shooting in Christchurch in March will always be softened by the grace with which New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern applied herself when addressing Parliament, Christchurch families and her nation. So it was more than apt that Rachel Colombo opened the vigil at Well Thumbed Books, Cobargo, on 13 April with her words. Rachel continued with Jacinda Ardern’s address to the House:
… I wanted to speak directly to the families. We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage. We can. And we will surround you with aroha, manaakitanga and all that makes us, us. Our hearts are heavy but our spirit is strong …
I told my GP a joke the other day. It was only a short joke, one of the few I know by heart. She pressed her hands to her cheeks and stared at me.
Dr G is a broadminded, competent, compassionate doctor. She’s quite easy-going. I arrived at one appointment to find her wearing shorts and a T-shirt; she shrugged—’I just didn’t feel like wearing work clothes today’. But she does come from a culture not known for its ready sense of humour. She was probably concerned for the character who was the butt of the joke—so to speak. That character, through a degree of dementia perhaps, had a self-inflicted injury—okay, maybe not an injury as such. But there would have been some discomfort. Not to mention inconvenience.
Zed*, at six years, was a happy, healthy companion dog living an easy life in a Triangle village. She loved her daily walks, chasing balls, chewing bones. But Zed was a dog without a job—until this past winter when her human, Elly*, saw a notice on the Cobargo Forum: ‘Truffle dogs required’.
One hundred percent renewable energy to power Australia? It sounds like a pipedream—unless you were in the audience at the Bermagui Institute Dinner at Il Passagio on 21 September to hear Andrew Blakers, Professor of Engineering at the Australian National University, speak about pumped hydro energy storage.