Floods and fires

The eastern coast of Australia has been on the wrong side of nature’s umbrella since the beginning of the year. The drought that had given us the tinder box which ignited into devastating bushfires in the Black Summer of 2019-20 was replaced by floods of near biblical proportions in March 2022.

Communities in the very south of Queensland and the far north coast of NSW (Big River Country) have been inundated by record breaking floods. Further south, areas around Sydney and Wollongong were also lashed by the East Coast Low – a quaint term for a cyclone-like event that occurs south of the areas cyclones are supposed to stick to.

Waiting to be rescued

My new town of Armidale was not affected by flood. The thirsty paddocks around here soaked up the welcome rain. It got a bit boggy but given nearly everywhere is downhill from Armidale, there is no risk of widespread flooding. Not so for the residents of towns like Lismore and Woodburn. The news was filled with heartbreaking images of families huddled on the roof of their two story homes with water lapping at the gutters waiting their turn to be rescued. Some of them waited for days. The demand for rescues exceeded the capacity of the emergency services and everyone with a “tinny” (a small aluminium boat) joined the effort to deposit soggy, hungry people on drier land.

The rains continue

A month later when recovery efforts were well underway, and widespread tidying up in full swing, another East Coast Low dumped more rain. Less than the previous event but because the ground was already sodden it did not take much to over top the levee again and people were evacuated for a second time. This time there were few rooftop rescues, mainly because those families were yet to return to their homes and because of swift enforcement of evacuation orders. 

Lismore’s future

Flood is a frequent visitor to Lismore. There is a levee around the town which is meant to protect them but this year the flood was a full 2 metres past previous records. Climate change? Probably.

I listened to an interview many years ago, when another bad flooding event had submerged the town. When the ABC reporter asked the hydrologist what could be done to protect the town, she drew a sharp breath and said “Move it”.

Move the whole darn town. Sounds crazy but not that crazy. With the the millions of dollars that are spent in fixing things after flood every couple of years, it seems like a good long term strategy. When you add in the personal cost, the trauma; the loss of household “stuff” and the fatalities, it seems like an even better idea.

Will it happen? Probably not.

I wouldn’t like to be trying to insure my home there though.

Here to help.

I am here in the disaster zone, helping out as an SES volunteer. My role is a small one. Working in the “back room” logistical side of things at an airbase. The helicopters are busy dropping food and supplies to people and animals. Today I helped load a chopper with sleeping bags and air mattresses for people still stuck in an evacuation centre.

I’m not getting wet and I’m not getting dirty, but I’m here and doing my bit. Just like hundreds of others of my orange colleagues and those from other agencies like the Rural Fire Service, the Police, the Defence Force and NSW Fire and Rescue. Some get paid, but for others (like the SES and RFS) this is a labour of love. For me it’s all part of my personal strategy to improve my life. Volunteering is one of the things that contribute to your own positive mental health and happiness.

Remember this!

To get here, I drove through the towns worst hit by this 1 in 1000 year flood. The scene was horrific. I found it hard to keep driving. I wanted to leap from the car and help the family I saw sweeping mud from their home. I wanted to hold the hose for the firies (fire fighters) who were sluicing out the shops. I wanted to take photos of the mud on the roofs, the caravans tipped sideways; the cars randomly wedged against trees; the bits of furniture stuck in the branches 10 metres above the ground. The piles of books and furniture stacked outside on the street waiting for collection. I wanted to record and share it all. But that seemed disrespectful. Disaster tourism. It didn’t seem right.

Or is it a chance to share an historic moment in time when Australians once again pulled together to help a community in trouble. A time when we decided climate change was here, and now.

Fellow Australians, It’s only a few weeks out from an election. Remember this. Which party has our long term interests at heart? The planet’s?

Remember that handshake during the fires? Where is he now?


There are no photos for this post. Maybe I’ll take some on the way home.

Cooking for One.

An article landed in my inbox this week. It was from the ABC or SBS. I’m not sure which, and now I can’t find it. The gist of the story was the difficulty some people have in cooking for one. That is, for themself. The author spoke about her newly single status and how she went through a stage of not wanting to go to the effort of cooking if she was the only one eating. She then went on to say how she pulled herself out of the doldrums and now is happy to make solo meals. 

The article made me stop and think about my own approach to cooking for myself and how it has changed. I have written before about my wine and (potato) wedges phase. In the early days of my single journey, I was lucky if I actually bothered to throw the frozen chips in the oven. Sometimes the wine and wedges became wine and a packet of chips (crisps). Nutrition goals met?…not! 

In the kitchen all day?

Thankfully, I’m over that and now I have the opposite approach. I spend a lot of time in my kitchen; on purpose and loving it. Today, for instance, I whipped up the following: 

  • A kilo of granola, 
  • picked 2 kilograms of blackberries from the empty block next door, 
  • made jam with said blackberries and then made 

Blackberries, a rare treat to find them in the “wild” these days. They are usually sprayed as they are a noxious weed.

Lentils in abundance!

I love cooking! I love cooking complex recipes. Sometimes I regret not having an audience to share my culinary prowess with, but I certainly eat well! I tend to spend 3 – 4 days in a cooking frenzy and then live on the leftovers for the next two weeks. My freezer fills up and my Tupperware cupboard empties.  My maths brain can’t help but chuckle about the inverse relationship between freezer volume and storage container availability.

Batch cooking – here mushroom cannelloni.

This love of cooking became very clear to me when I was unpacking my stuff in my new house. My sister and her kids come to help me. I felt a bit awkward when they began to unpack jar after jar of lentils 

“How many types do you have?” my niece asked.

Turns out it’s at least seven. Then at least four different types of oil, a bunch of different kinds of vinegar and so many spices I did not have room for them. 

The near ancient Kenwood.

I am not a kitchen gadget person and usually make do with basic tools but I do have a Kenwood stand mixer and a BIG food processor. The stand mixer is at least 40 years old. I bought it at a garage sale when my child was a small baby. I remember paying $30 for it and balancing it on the canopy of the stroller as I wheeled it home.  It weighs a tonne and is still going strong. It was old then and that baby is now 31! (currently touching all the wood!!!)

As time has progressed and my budget has allowed, I have realised it’s worth spending good money on better knives and heavy saucepans. It’s equally important to have a good knife sharpener. Adapting recipes became second nature. I would now consider myself an accomplished cook but certainly no Michelin-rated chef.

I know some people find cooking a chore, but for me, it’s a creative outlet.

Plogging along.

The last Sunday in October has been a  standing date in my diary for the last decade or so. This is the day the Seven Bridges Walk (SWB) is normally held. The Seven Bridges Walk is a 30-ish km walk around the foreshores of Sydney. (You can see the route in the Alltrails app) It is organised each year by the Cancer Council as a fundraiser. Well, every year except the last two, when it’s been interrupted by Covid. 

I have participated in this fundraising event at least 12 times (maybe more!?). Sometimes alone, but usually with 2 or 3 friends. It’s a fun day out and apart from what you may spend on donations/registration fees you could make it a very cheap day’s entertainment. There are “villages” set up along the way to buy food and drinks, but you could bring your own. The whole route is accessible by public transport, which on Sunday has an $8:15 cap

At the end of the walk, my friends and I always reward ourselves with a beer and some potato wedges at a pub at our endpoint. After that, we haul our tired bodies out of the chairs and head home. 

This one from 2017, with my buddy Michele.

Stanwell Park to Wollongong

Last year, since the “real” walk, was cancelled two of my buddies and I decided to do a local walk from Stanwell Park to Wollongong. This as it happens, is also a 30 km walk. 

The scenery is amazing and heading south, it is all downhill! There are shops, parks, water fountains and public toilets at convenient intervals so you don’t have to carry much if you don’t want to. In contrast to the Seven Bridges Walk, we lost count at twenty bridges of one kind or another, but here is one spectacular bridge – The Seacliff Bridge which makes the walk worthwhile in itself.

The deck of the Seacliff Bridge.

Cancelled again!

This year the SBW was cancelled again due to the uncertainties of Covid. The organisers were encouraging people to do it on their own or in small groups,  without the usual support crews, villages and checkpoints. While many restrictions have been lifted since Freedom Day (11 October), large crowds are still not a great idea and LOTS of people usually join the walk. In fact, due to overcrowding, the walk has been capped at 15,000 participants.

Once again the idea of going into the city when things were still a bit sketchy in terms of safety was unpalatable, so we decided to do the Stanwell Park to Wollongong walk again. This year we changed it up by adding plogging. That is, we walked and picked up rubbish as we went. Plogging is a Swedish term that has become a worldwide movement. According to the plogging.org website the first organised plog happened in 2016 in Stockholm. 

Grabbers and garbage bags at the ready!

Plogga (or plogging) is the basis of a collective name where we want to change the setting and get everyone to become “Proud litter pickers”.

plogging.org

Although it took us longer to walk the 30 km than usual, the beer at the end was still a goal to aim for. We picked up rubbish for the first 25 km but decided we better hurry as it was getting later and we really needed to be getting home. We walked the last 5km at a cracking pace which made the beer even sweeter!

Add plogging to your eco-warrior repertoire

Plogging is an easy thing to add to your eco-warrior quiver. The ocean is downhill from everywhere and it’s sad to think all those bits of plastic wrapper will eventually end up there. Some will fly down and sea creatures will eat them thinking it’s food, or if the plastic hangs around in the sun long enough it will degrade and the microplastic will contaminate the soil. 

Apart from plogging, alternative solutions to littering include taking better care of our own rubbish or even better still avoiding stuff that makes rubbish. If you want ice cream, get one in a cone without the packaging. Easy!

Even though I think plogging is a great idea and it’s fun and easy to do when you’re with your buddies, I’m working up the courage to do it solo. I haven’t seen anyone in my area do it yet. Maybe I can be a plogging trail blazer! 

ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

PS: The previously promised Part 2 of Eco-friendly painting will appear soon!