Thursday, May 24, 2012

Our 'new' home alongside the Maranoa River

After much throwing around of ideas, researching the process of building a new house, and inspecting properties for sale that were not flooded, we've finally made a decision and bought another house.

Its location is perfect: on the river and only four doors up from our flooded house.  It didn't escape flooding by much, but the fact is it survived without damage.  It's an old home that's been recently renovated by our close friend, Richard.  It is a very 'middle of the road' house.  Nothing flash.  Very Mitchell.

It comes with a lovely native garden, a few sheds for Doug and a sunny front room that overlooks the river.  This is where I'll write, draw, and play the marimba and guitar -- and I expect we'll eat and socialise there too.

We are very happy about our decision -- it's a home with a warm, happy feel.  It has white walls and polished cypress pine floors. At present, Richard is living and working in Western Australia, so we can take possession within the next few weeks.  This is great news for us!  Living in a caravan is wearing a bit thin, especially when it rains or is cold.  Next weekend I'll tell you more and show you photos of our new home and garden. 

On another subject.  Four months on since the Mitchell flood and a lot of people are still are hurting: living in temporary accommodation, or in homes that haven't been 'fixed up' (due to either no insurance or delays caused by a shortage of builders).

But people are talking.  Frequent local events give people the opportunity to share their problems and experiences.  This is an important part of the recovery process, and one which we feel privileged to share in.

Today's photos show our living conditions after heavy rain. The mud is like glue!

I'll be back next weekend, that's a promise!

Weekend blog from tomorrow onwards

Due to my increased workload -- as the result of the Mitchell flood -- I'm planning to write a weekend blog rather than a daily one.

Since arriving in Mitchell I haven't had time to do any of my ordinary writing (I'm working on a book about St Francis and his gift with animals); play the guitar or do any botanical drawing.  I'd like to be doing all of these things as well as wash away mud and dust, sort through 'stuff', socialise with our friends, and join in community events -- all this as well as live in two caravans along with two German shepherds and one Siamese cat.

Our living conditions are less than easy, compounded today because of heavy rain.  The dust has turned to sticky mud that resembles glue.  Imagine the mud on our shoes and the paws of our two German shepherds and then think of the floors of the caravan and annex!

We've had to close the annex up due to rain. Photos tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pleasure in simple things: Mitchell outback Qld

There's nothing Major enjoys more than a swim.

Of all the dogs we've been privileged to share our life with, Major is the strongest swimmer.  When we had Great Danes they looked as if they might drown as they thrashed about with their long legs.  Our Irish setters enjoyed the water but didn't have the strength of drive that Major displays.

When we had a sheep property on King Island, our working Border collies flopped into any dam, water trough or puddle they could find while mustering, but they didn't swim, they just wanted to cool off.

But back to Mitchell and the Maranoa River.  One of my pleasures is watching Major swim out into the reflections of river red gums caste so dramatically onto the surface of the Maranoa River.

The mirror effect gives a surreal appearance.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Flood debris sky high: Mitchell outback Qld

Proof of the force and height of the Maranoa River in flood mode can be seen everywhere along the banks of this, the fastest flowing river in Queensland.  

Caught high up in river red gums are logs, branches and tufts of grasses.  In some places they hang like artistic creations, especially when viewed against a pale blue sky, or reflected in the water.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Unexpected find in pocket of moisture

While Doug was dismantling part of our flood damaged kitchen cupboards he discovered a pocket of moisture, and in that moisture, 10 small desert tree frogs -- sitting in a tight little bunch. We collected the frogs in Major's food bowl and then liberated them in the garden.

The  discovery shows two things.  Firstly, the amazing survival skills of frogs.  Secondly, it proves that even after four months of dry and mostly hot weather, our house has not yet dried out in the floor sections that are covered.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Vital points of entry and exit: Mitchell Outback Qld

The road bridge over the Maranoa River at Mitchell was badly damaged during the February floods.  This river crossing is a critical link to Mitchell and the south-west communities of Queensland: especially for the livestock,  transport and tourism industries.  The Warrego Highway is an important national highway.

Consequently, work on a new bridge is expected to begin this year, downstream of the existing bridge.  In the meantime, there are speed restrictions, and traffic lights on either end to ensure that only one lane of traffic moves over the bridge at one time.

Before the bridge was built, the Old Crossing was the only way over the Maranoa River.  Today, the view up and down stream from the Old Crossing is much the same as it was before the flood.  What is different though, are the mountains of white river sand layered up the bank -- and also the removal of much of the vegetation.  

There's so much to do after a flood: so much cleaning and sorting out.  As a result, it's easy to lose sight of why we come to Mitchell, why we chose Mitchell as our home.  Every evening I walk with my German shepherd Major.  As we walk along the river, I feast my senses on the moving water, the massive red gums -- and all that wonderful space and light. 

Here I restore my spirit: feel the river's peace: let my mind to go loose.

At the Old Crossing, the river gurgles over the concrete and stone causeway without a care in the world, and then gives a soft sigh as it makes its way southwards -- part of the Murray Darling system.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rare book survives Mitchell flood

Doug's metal lathe is one of his treasures and was, unfortunately, covered in flood water when the Maranoa River burst its banks in February.  Along with his lathe, a valuable book called 'How to Run a Lathe' was also lost.

Yesterday, however, Doug found this book in a plastic bag, in amongst a pile of rubble. He has dried it carefully and is photographed separating the pages.

This 1942 edition was produced in order to teach men and women how to use a lathe.  This was a WW2 effort as aircraft and motor vehicles were in short supply.  The original edition was produced in 1914 -- a WW1 effort.  

For Doug, he finds it explains everything about metal lathes in a clear and easy to follow way.  It's his Bible!  Drying it out and separating the mud stained pages with a knife has been just one of Doug's hundreds of post-flood tasks.

Doug's workshop is now clean and well-organised -- which makes him a happy man!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fisherman's Rest 'snowfield': 5 m deep sand

The white river sand -- dumped at Fishermen's Rest during the February flood of the Maranoa River -- looks like snow, and even feels like snow.  As you struggle to walk through the tonnes of dazzling white sand that has blanketed the grassy banks so popular for picnics, camping, fishing and canoeing, you feel in awe of the river's mass and power.

Fisherman's Rest is still a tranquil place where reflections dip into the water, linking the sky, sand, river red gums and water.

On another subject, our first marimba lesson last night was both fun and challenging -- also, it was great to see our marimba friends, post-flood.  Our group is in twice-weekly practice mode at present, as we've been asked to help entertain the crowds with our music, at the Maranoa Races.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Clothes saved from flood: Wylpena

For the past few weeks I've been wearing and washing out only a few sets of clothes, so it was good yesterday to drive to our friends at Wylpena to collect the bulk of our clothes.

When our house was flooded in February, Heather and Bob helped Doug save our books, paintings and our clothes.  Water had stained some, and most were damp, so Heather took them home and washed, dried and ironed them for me.  Then she packed them up safely, ready for our return.

So now, where to put them?  I plan a big sort through and will leave the bulk in storage (until we get our house) and arrange the rest between our two caravans.  I must admit I'm looking forward to having more choice, and warmer clothes, as the nights are frosty.

Meanwhile, Doug and I will be forever grateful that we have friends as warm and generous as Heather and Bob -- with the added bonus of many shared interests.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Family fun at Mitchell Show

Perfect weather, a happy crowd and lots of entertainment made Mitchell's Annual Agricultural Show a great pick me up for a community still suffering the after-effects of the February flood.  The show demonstrated yet again that outback people have resilience; and that they are hard-working and generous. For us, it was a great opportunity to see so many of our friends, and wonderful to feel so much part of this outback community.  

Tempting food, horse events in the main arena, a colourful sideshow alley, wood chopping, a reptile display, motorbike demonstrations, poultry, cattle, sheep and wool  -- and a pavilion where locals had put together a great display of art, photography, garden produce, flowers, craft work and cooking -- all these and more kept people happy and entertained. 

Over the past couple of months, school children and teachers have worked together to create a Dinosaur Petting Zoo that gives people a fun glimpse into prehistoric Australia.  The highlight of the entertainment on Show Day was a Dinosaur Puppet Show.  This hilarious yet educational show had the audience laughing, shrieking, cheering, gasping and leaping out of their seats.  

In spite of the February flood disaster, Mitchell put on a show to be proud of.  Congratulations to all the participants and the team of dedicated people who organised this great community event.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The good and the bad: post Mitchell flood

Prior to the February flood, an attractive foot bridge crossed the Maranoa River -- alongside the murals spray-painted on the bridge pylons.  A formed pathway meandered from the Major Mitchell Caravan Park down the riverbank, across the river and then up the other side and into the township of Mitchell.  

Today all that is spoiled.  Parts of the foot bridge are parked high and dry, and unused (Major loves jumping up onto sections of it!).  The concrete pathway is covered in mountains of white river sand.  Several seats have been unearthed, along with the newly erected but now wrecked musical stock grid.  

The Major Mitchell Caravan Park now provides a small bus to take visitors from the caravan park across the river and into Mitchell -- because there is no footbridge any more and the road bridge allows no pedestrians.  

Three good things happened today.  Firstly, the Snow White the egret greeted me at the Old Crossing.  

Secondly, 'my' mulberry tree by the road bridge has survived yet again, and has sprouted many slender new trunks, all clothed in heart-shaped leaves.  This tree is a true survivor, having lived through a seven-year drought and now this, the worst flood in white history.  Yet it's destined to die!  'My' mulberry tree is in the way of the new bridge.  I plan to take cuttings from the parent tree, propagate them and then replant the tree when the new bridge is complete.  This tree deserves to live on.

Thirdly, the fish are biting and there are reports of good catches of yellowbelly, and so lots of happy people are fishing along the banks of this majestic river.