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20 May 2009 @ 12:23 pm
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.
jimmimae on May 20th, 2009 04:46 am (UTC)
Wow! The first photo looks like something by Edward Gorey. Thank you for posting these photos, must have been a shock to see everything so changed! Glad it's coming back alive.
damien_wise on May 20th, 2009 05:57 am (UTC)
Spectacular photos!
Thanks for sharing...it' a bit different when you've got a personal attachment/history with the place.
I was at Wilson's Prom yesterday for some photography and walking. Went there approx six weeks ago, too. Interesting to see how some parts are unchanged while others are recovering and already sprouting like crazy. And, a relief to see kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and so much birdlife returning.
aedunaaeduna on May 20th, 2009 06:26 am (UTC)
Might be worth seeing if you can get a grant to help revegetate it with something more appropriate?
Nicole: snailmatcha_pocky on May 20th, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
Grant... hmmm... Grant you say.
Sunday Velvetandricongirl on May 20th, 2009 06:45 am (UTC)
great pics.
its great how its growing back, that's the aussie bush for ya :]