23 December 2019

57. Fire, Smoke, Birds and Beasts

A thunderstorm on December 10th produced no rain. Bolts of lightning struck the ground and 4 fires started instead. Twelve days on, 2 bushfires are still blazing with no sign of when they’ll be put out. It might be months.

The closest fire, 4 km to the east, has burnt out 1622 hectares, or 6.26 square miles. In the north, a small bushfire that’s been dormant for a week spread out in strong winds. It has razed 236 hectares. Nestled in dense eucalypt forest that has never been cleared, it could become dangerous. From 7 km away, through trees and over mountains we see the bright red glow of a raging bushfire each night. My family jokes that they are our Christmas lights.
Sunrise 7 am 23/12/19

There’s been a smoke haze over the farm for 7 weeks, but not so thick as when fires started past our boundary fences. Over 13 days the fire and smoke haze is greater while the air quality has lessened. Stinging eyes and a rasping sore throat is the least of it. You can’t see far and it’s hard to breathe.

A chronic asthmatic from 3 years old, I wouldn’t survive a day without medication. Twice this week I’ve woken at 4 am with asthma attacks. 

Sitting up wheezing in the dark hours, trying to medicate with a coughing fit is tough. When my throat and chest gets tight, I wonder if I’m about to take my last breath. Fine with the new meds and a nebulizer, there are days when I can’t go outside at all.

Finches are cheeping, staging a rebellion about the dry birdbath. 

I get death stares from the Firetails. 

There is just too much smoke to go outside.

All the birds are angry. 

They have sore throats from smoke too. 

Is that all there is?

The only accessible groundwater for almost 2 km around is found at our house.

I don't know why she's taking so long.
Why are we waiting?

A heatwave has meant daytime temperatures from 36 to 42 degrees C, or 96 to 108 Fahrenheit.


Nope, I can't see any water in there Kingsly.
This morning,  24/12/19 at 10 am, 30 degrees already.

There's more angry tweeting than even Trump sends out.

My husband and brother-in-law, neighbours and volunteers are still battling a steep mountain bushfire that just won’t die.

A Rosella makes a rasping noise to let me know it's not happy.

C'mon camera lady, fill up the bath.

Is she coming out dad, is she dad, huh, huh?

The weather is so extreme it makes all the birds and beasts suffer.

Our peacock shimmies to get my attention, as if to say: 'We need more water out here.'

There’s been no rain for months, only air pollution from over 100 fires burning constantly around New South Wales since November. Almost 3 million hectares has been burnt out; over 470 homes lost and god knows how much of our gorgeous wildlife gone.

Birds aren’t the only hot, thirsty ones. Three days ago we saw 2 Brushtail Possums for the first time in years. One baby and one adult.
There are 8 regular Wallabies and Wallaroos, including a joey I named Peepo that comes to my doorstep for water.

Desperate for food Peepo chews on a dead grass runner.


There are 6 monitor lizards we see each day drinking, fighting, glaring or...well, mating.

These 2 huge monitors had a bloody battle lasting half an hour. Both beasts were exhausted as they crashed down my cliff side garden; there was no clear winner when neither could go on brawling.

Last Thursday, 36 degrees by 11 am.

The 42 degrees temperatures last Saturday were too hot for anyone to be out fighting fires in.

The mountain this time last week.

Friday, December 13th, the bushfire was taking off in heatwave conditions.

From 4 km away it seemed like low lying clouds, until you looked closer and realised.

Scorching days with out of control fire made a curtain of choking smoke.

Individual fires joined together to create a giant band of grey that went along the ridge for over a km.

A fire-breathing dragon ruled for 13 days and nights.

Heat and haze knock everything around. Three Peaceful Doves who couldn’t see where they were flying smashed into windows.

It’s soul-destroying, especially at Christmas. Good people are working hard to protect rural homes, people and property. Besides making sure the wildlife get a drink, there isn’t much else I can do. 

This is a cruel summer of climate change.

The finches are quite pleased with their infinity pool. My daughter went out to fill it at 8. Overnight the Wallabies drink so deeply it is drained by each morning. The birds let me know, then fly in for a quick splash and drink in 37-degree weather.

Every living thing needs water to survive.

The roos have eaten my garden to have something in their bellies. Nearly 50 rose bushes went to a good kangaroo home. They are welcome to it; I was never good at gardening anyway. My husband says I can always buy more plants.

Living creatures are more important.

The blanket of fire-smoke blocked out the blue of the sky and brought on asthma attacks.

I don't want to see this any more; not at Christmas.

Eight at night, when smoke clears you can see flames licking the high country.

Turning 100 year old trees into blackened skeletons.
Despite constant work to contain it, this blaze might not go out for months.

Here’s the only Christmas tree we’ll have this year. It’s a natural one decorated differently each hour. Two white angel Cockatoos in 41-degree heat.

Better than a partridge in a pear tree any day.

Have a happy Christmas.


  1. Such a beautiful, desperately sad story Thérèse, thank you. My thoughts are with you every day.

  2. Thanks Steve, the air is a bit clearer today for Christmas. 32 degrees here, let's hope it stops there. The forecast rain hasn't arrived, but I'm a little bit happy. I've already had a glass of wine with breakfast, and we're all doing okay and I haven't even opened my presents yet. Thank you always for your kind thoughts, cheers, Therese.