I’m a country girl. Okay, to be honest I’m a rural town girl and it’s no secret I love the place I live.
I like the fresh air, the space between neighbors and, if I had a full-time job away from home, a short travel time to work where traffic jams are rare.
The people in my community love a chat most of the time and lately the topic always turns to one thing. The weather.
Once considered a topic of conversation for strangers killing time the weather is certainly making a comeback as the most interesting thing to discuss, ponder and analyse.
Which is odd when one considers its been pretty much a non-event for years.
It is our common ground as every day is a tedious and frustrating weather Groundhog Day.
I’ve witnessed visitor’s amusement as locals get hopeful, almost excited, at the sight of a grey cloud in the sky.
The forecast of a single millimeter of rain is greeted with anticipation and the feeling of betrayal is real when it is not received.
A severe storm prediction is received with an out cry of hope however dry storms burn up equally dry foliage in their wake.
While fires have wreaked havoc in other areas of the country I for one have marveled at news footage showing green hills and open spaces under threat of the infernos.
There was a strong sense of waste as we watched dams filled beyond capacity wreak chaos in an over soaked Queensland and an inability to comprehend the amount of moisture falling from the sky that caused it.
The devastation and loss of life in the communities affected by these natural disasters prompted support from my community to help their recovery now the danger has past. We wish them nothing but the best as they move on and rebuild.
Back home relentless sunny days and an unrelenting heat has left everything a lighter shade of pale in regional North West New South Wales. .
Every day I see sun-bleached brown streets, lane ways, domestic yards and properties and even the sky is not as blue as it has it seems bleached out too.
Dust covers everything. A present brought to town from the farmers who are losing their top soil in the frequent strong winds accompanying the endless dry days.
It’s gone on so long the farmers have cleared their dusty, bare, paddocks of stock and cropping hasn’t been an option for two or more seasons. Winter crops didn’t grow and there is no chance of the major income summer crops usually provide.
Although local carriers aren’t involved in annual grain haulage work some are travelling thousands of kilometers trying to secure hay for the region’s ever-decreasing herds. Sadly, many producers have not had time or been too proud to register for help so the cost of hay and transport has drained their bank accounts. They can’t hand feed any longer.
Their family business is reduced to the land it operates from but producing something from it is reliant on the weather. They are looking for outside work to feed themselves.
They don’t like to talk about the weather. There is nothing to talk about there.
Every day is Groundhog Day.
Beyond their farm gates their communities are struggling too. Work is hard to find for everyone as the domino effect is kicks in.
It started with businesses in the agricultural industry. Farm machinery sales and maintenance, fuel, stock transport, animal welfare, shearing, seed grain, pasture improvement, pest control for both the stock and the paddock are just a few.
As these businesses slow down to bare operating conditions and costs more locals are dealing with lower incomes or looking for work. With less money in the town folks’ pockets money isn’t available for the pretty things in life.
Businesses supplying services not considered essential to everyday survival are the next domino to fall.
Shops are putting staff off or closing. There are less and less work opportunities for everyone and not many offer job security, if any.
Everyone seems to be in a simmering bad mood brought on by job insecurity, income stress and endless hot days and nights. It’s hard to sleep at night when bills are piling up and you are scared to add to them by turning on the cooling system.
Cutting back on costs has become an art among locals. Regular maintenance on vehicles and machinery is being postponed. Travel and holidays put on hold or cancelled, grocery shops reduced to essentials only, entertainment activities reduced and the list goes on.
While losing excessive moisture through sweaty days and nights it’s still too dry to waste tears on the loss of the small pleasures of life. Supporting the local community by using its services is becoming very difficult.
Country people are proud and strong but it doesn’t mean they can’t break when put under pressure for prolong periods.
The worry is real as we push on trying to make the ends of a very short string meet around a very large problem.
Who knows what a new day will bring?
Every day is a day closer to rain. Isn't it?