Nicole (matcha_pocky) wrote,


Last week, Greg and I drove up to our property in Clonbinane, between Whittlesea and Wallan. Peter and I last went up there about a year ago, after an absence of about fifteen years. We used to go up nearly every weekend as a family, to muck about with fires and sticks and getting covered in burrs along the creek. We had grand plans to build a house, but then our mother got bitten by a tick and somehow she just never found the time to go back. Over the intervening years, the whole property was taken over by a woody shrub, which someone identified for us as Kunzea ericoides, variously known as burgan, kanuka or white tea-tree. We referred to it as 'that horrible stuff'. It gradually muscled out the trees, even the bracken, until the whole place was just a sea of evil pointy branches waiting to smack you in the face.

It all looked very different last week.

Autumn has come to a country with no autumn. I understand one person died in the fire on Ryan's Rise Road, and a number of houses burnt. People are rebuilding - new fences, construction trucks, guys in orange vests. Some places were relatively untouched. Our block was toasted to a crisp. There was no soil left, only ash and fallen leaves.

We were greeted at the fenceline by our escort, who joined us for a roam over the property. Despite the bleak first impressions, life is starting to come back.

This is the granddaddy of the gum trees on the property. I used to pull its giant, perfectly-shaped leaves off, and chew them whilst pretending to be a koala. The waterfalls are running, trees are sprouting, bracken and wild violets are coming through, along with various mosses.

We found a number of dead kangaroos, but there were signs of inhabitation - 'roo and wombat droppings, nibbled gum shoots. We didn't see much animal life, but what we did see was pretty special - a wedge-tailed eagle, scared up out of its nest by our doggy escort. Must've had a wingspan of a metre and a half.

black as midnight on a moonless night

Not everywhere is growing back - the top of the hill is unrecognisable. No plant life, just ash.

Kunzea ericoides

The burgan is entirely crisped - we used to throw it on our campfires just to watch it whoomph as the oils burned - but is growing back here and there. Weirdly, it isn't brittle at all - it still has the tensile strength of kevlar. Sacrifice the leaves, save the trunk.

So we're probably going to put a house on it now. It seems a shame to let the burgan grow back. I think the place deserves a bit of love after all that.
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