"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Friday, 21 August 2015

A reality of rural life

Living in the countryside has it's pluses, but also it's negatives.  Last week was a case in point.

Co-incidentally, 2½ weeks ago I had mentioned to RMan that, after the rains which had fallen in June and July, the risk of fires breaking out in summer, especially on the mountainsides was great.  And the well-watered, abundant vegetation would be in prime fire condition.

We are also concerned about the vacant smallholdings round us - to the point that RMan decided to create a firebreak on the one closest to us.  A lot of smallholdings here have been purchased as investments - which means that the owners rarely, if ever, visit.  They therefore have no idea what a potential risk their empty smallholdings are to the inhabitants - especially where fire is concerned.

Our local fire brigade has an small, old water tanker - which needs refilling often.  Although our dam would be put to use in that situation, it would not help someone whose property is 3 - 5 kms away.  We even considered purchasing a portable water pump - the only drawback of that is managing to find flexible fire hoses to fit the pump.  Normal 25mm irrigation hose is definitely too rigid for that purpose.
The firebreak, although small, will certainly
help delay a veld fire.
So, RMan entered the property through a cut in the fence between our properties in order to access our immediate neighbour's property, and gave the first 10 - 12mtrs of their land a good plough.  That should help slow things down should a fire threaten.

Literally, two days later we noticed smoke over the hills and near the mountains - was it a "controlled burn" that got away from a farmer when the wind picked up?  We have no idea.
Not a good sight to behold when you don't have
 access to an efficient fire brigade and are 
located too far away for choppers to be called
for assistance.
Photo credit: Dan Wessels
But - it gave us a scare - it was our first wild fire since we moved here at the end of June 2012.
The fire travelled against the wind and up a mountainside
That evening the fire travelled up the mountain...
The state of the fire at dusk
...and, when I rose at 1.30a.m. to check on it, this is what it looked like...
Fire always looks worse at nighttime - especially
 as one's depth of field is impaired by the lack of
visible "landmarks"
That sight is not conducive to a good nights sleep.

It hung around our side of the mountain for 2 days before the north westerly wind shifted to the south east and sent the fire heading north over the mountain towards Barrydale.
The wildfire approaching Barrydale
Photo credit: Fran Hunziker
I felt for the inhabitants of Barrydale - a large fire is one thing, but a fire that stretches for kilometers along a mountain and, due to the change in wind direction, edges ever closer to a small town - that is another kettle of fish altogether.  Never mind all those poor animals on the mountainside who didn't make it to safety.

Thankfully, five days ago, we had a little rain - sufficient to quell the flames.

23 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, how scary.
    Glad all is well.
    Gillx

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    1. Gill - T'was very, very scary - with the changing wind making the fire's direction very uncertain.

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  2. I wouldnt have been able to sleep knowing that was out there, scary stuff fires even worse when they are at the control of the wind

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    1. Dawn - I didn't sleep much for 2 - 3 nights, until it moved "over the mountain".

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  3. Scary stuff indeed, very worrisome. Good for RMan for taking precautions for you all. I admit I hated to hear the smallholdings around you are simply investment properties. Besides often remaining neglected, it drives land prices up so that folks who want to make a sincere go at farming or sustainable living, often can't afford it, or end up with a huge mortgage just so someone else can have ice cream money.

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    Replies
    1. Leigh - Yeah, agreed. Actually, our local estate agent seems to be keeping the price as low as possible (so that he can sell more smallholdings?) but the owners want more than they are being offered. The prices haven't changed at all since we purchased in 2008 - which means that the properties aren't being sold and are just standing vacant.

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  4. That is so scary! Glad your place was spared. Bless RMan for creating a firebreak.

    FlowerLady

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    1. Lorraine - S'funny, if it was just us we wouldn't have been as concerned. But, with animals totally dependent on us for their well being, their safety comes first. Plus, we have no way to get 4 alpaca's away from a fire area... (no horsebox, etc)

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  5. Dani,

    So glad it turned away from you guys. Fire is a really scary thing to me.

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    Replies
    1. DFW - Years ago we went away on holiday with our then two small children. A fire rushed through the holiday village so fast that it burnt the underside of the bushes only. We had to drive through that fire - and I still get goosebumps at the memory...

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  6. Dani - that is crazy scary! i am sure you didn't sleep for days! fire is something that scares us but is very rare. i hope you can get some sleep now! sending much love!

    your friend,
    kymber

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    Replies
    1. kymber - Veld (wild) fires are the stuff of nightmares...

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  7. When we had the huge drought here in 2011, there were fires springing up all over this part of Texas and with the trees dry and the grass brown and crispy, I was so worried about that. We too have zero water available, other than normal house water pressure from the hose. When we (someday) put in a pond, we'll have some more but even then it will be a few acres away so I'm not sure how that would help either.

    The fire break is a good idea, here now, it is mandatory and they mowed it all again the other day. Kind of ironic you mentioned that. That fire at night picture is SO scary. Not sure I would have been able to sleep AT ALL!

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    1. 1st Man - bearing in mind our community water comes from communal 5000lt tanks, I doubt the pressure would be sufficient to douse a fire...

      Nope, I didn't get much sleep for the two nights it potentially threatened us.

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  8. I'm glad you're safe for now but it's good you've been proactive and tried to minimise your risks.

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    1. Kirsty - Being proactive is the only route I know lol I drive RMan crazy sometimes, but, rather safe than sorry... :)

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  9. First, I'm relieve d that you and yours are safe! Fire is a very sobering thing.Whew.
    Second, a fireline/firebreak is an excellent precaution. Here, 40' is a good width to keep vegetation low around a large forested area.
    But I'm curious: it sounds like instead of putting the break on your own land, you took down a fence and modified neighboring land...is that right? I ask because I can't imagine doing that here. It certainly wouldn't be legal, regardless of personal justification. Maybe the law is different there? Always something new to learn about the way things are managed in different parts of the world!

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    1. Quinn - We didn't take down the fence - the cut in the fence was there long before we purchased our property - made by one of the original indigenous residents of the area in order to allow their animals to graze the property. That is a common occurrence here.

      Our side of the property is clean and maintained - there is 3 mtrs between our driveway and the fence. Our neighbours side is completely overgrown with renosterbos - which is HIGHLY flammable. If we didn't create a firebreak, and called the the municipality to do so, they would've charged the owner plenty for the privilege. Instead, we carried the diesel cost of the tractor, and the time it took.

      However, you did raise a valid point re: "personal justification" - and I will try and obtain the e-mail contact details of the owner of the land (one is in Cape Town, the other lives in New Zealand) in order to obtain their permission for future firebreaks.

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    2. I was just watching a video on BBC news that reminded me to come back and see if you had replied (I always check the "notify me" box when I leave a comment here, but I never get a notification - wish I knew how to fix that, because I don't always reread blog posts for the added comments, as I follow quite a number of blogs!) - anyway, the news story was about japanese knotweed and the responsibility of landowners in the UK to control it. This looked like an urban or at least suburban area, and having knotweed growing nextdoor can prevent a person from getting a mortgage to buy your house! Wow.

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    3. Quinn - That's freaky. Last night I read a book and the author mentioned japanese knotweed. Never heard of it before, and within 18 hours I come across it twice...

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    4. The book was "A Prisioner of Birth" - by Jeffrey Archer - very good lol

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  10. Wild fires aren't something we have to contend with in England (all that rain) but must be quite terrifying. I've recently read a lovely book that was centred around the 2012 Fort Collins fire in Colorado - quite heartbreaking (but a great read).

    I too wondered about the legality of your accessing neighbours' land. If you can't contact the owners could you get something from your municipality granting you permission to maintain the break on their behalf?

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    1. Jayne - Wild fires make you realize just how "vulnerable" you are.to Mother Nature.

      I have been trying to contact the neighbours, with no luck so far. But I haven't given up...

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