Only the two far south western paddocks had not been burnt, and the firebreaks and sprinklers had kept the fire from jumping to the northern side of the property, with just embers being the cause of the fire at the house and shed.
With the assistance of internet, and getting in touch with a wildlife rescue organisation, I was able to work out what I needed to do to look after and rehabilitate the animals, and I was kept busy with this. I was instructed by my father to keep the existence of the large room below the stone homestead a secret, with no mention of it to my siblings.
When Mum, Gran and my siblings returned three days later, they were all keen to help me with caring duties, while I helped Dad and Grandfather with clearing out the damaged farm equipment out of the shed and replacing some sheets of corrugated iron on the roof and wall at one end of the shed.
Once this was done, work began with demolishing the house, and clearing away all the ruins, after some debate, it was decided that the family would remain at the main homestead, and that it would have some modernising done in the future. Gran liked her home, while her daughter in law – my mum distinctly hated the wood burning stove and oven in the kitchen, which also provided all the heating of hot water.
I elected to remain at the cottage, which made it easier, so Gertrude and Nicholas had separate bedrooms, while the twins shared a room, Mum and Dad have the large guest bedroom which has its own bathroom, as does Gran and Grandfathers master bedroom, while the other two bedrooms have a shared bathroom.
Once all the clearing of the damaged ruins had been cleaned up and buried, grandfather began a list of all equipment and buildings damaged by the fire, to get it assessed for insurance, while Dad and I went out in separate vehicles to work out how much fence line we have lost on the southern side of the property.
We knew that it will probably take us at least six months to get all the fences up again, with the boundary fences being the main priority, but we had to have it assessed and order new supplies in before work could begin. For the remainder of the summer holidays, I was kept busy with the wildlife rehabilitation and helping on the farm, so time seemed to fly by quickly, and before I knew it, time had arrived to return to college for my final year of studies.
It was decided that the smaller tractor and spare ute didn’t need to be replaced, so the insurance money for this would go towards, covering additional fencing costs, as well as reseeding pasture for the paddocks that were burnt.
As summer ended, on the third week of the new school year, I was spending a weekend of just relaxing at the boarding house, when I saw a current edition of the famers magazine, and flicking through it, I spotted two neighbouring properties to the south of our farm, that were for sale by auction.
Together the properties are 4700 acres in area, with approximately 85% of both properties being burnt by the recent fires, including fencing, both main houses and several shed and yards, I telephone home and spoke to Grandfather for a good half an hour about it, and eventually he agreed that it would be a worthwhile investment, and he would investigate making the purchase.
A few days later while on a short break from studies, I received a text message from Grandfather. “I have managed to secure the purchase of both properties, your dad not too happy about it, but like you, I think it will be worth it”. I smiled when I saw the message, and I was looking forward to getting home at the next school holidays to go and have a look at the two properties.
When the first term holidays did finally arrive, I could hardly wait to get home, Mum travelled down to collect me, and it was almost dark by the time we arrive home, I was dropped off at my cottage, which I now viewed as my home, where I showered and went straight to bed. The next morning, I was up early, and I walked over to the homestead to catch up with Grandfather, who was in the kitchen chatting to Gran with a cup of tea, which I was offered one too, as well as some breakfast.
I was informed that the boundary fences on the new property had been completed, as well as those on the main property, and all the burnt land has been reseeded for pasture, plus all building and machinery rubble damaged by the fire had been cleared and buried. Grandfather mentioned that most of the waterlines had been checked, some water tanks replaced, and additional tanks and troughs installed, and all windmills are now operational on the new property.
A survey has been completed on the new part of the property, and there will be 24 paddocks, with each one being approximately 195 acres in area, with a central laneway running north to south, connecting with central laneways on the original main property.
Now with a total of 8,800 acres of land, it would be busy on the farm, with internal paddock fences to be built, a gravel road to be built in the new laneway, and some new cattle yards needed to be built, near the southern end of the farm.
The family now owns most of the land between the river to the north, the highway to the east, the ocean to the west, and the pine plantation to the south. A small number of hobby farms, and the community of Rivervale are all that are not part of the farm, and now there is almost 9 km’s of near beach frontage.
When I returned home for the mid-year holidays, it was good to see all the burnt pasture was now replaced with beautiful green new pasture, with the recent rain we had received. Most of the wild animals that we had rescued and rehabilitated, had now been released, with Mum and Gran taking on the carer duties while I was away at college.
The only one that would be remaining is Wally the Wallaby, who still can’t hop properly, because of his damaged tail. He has become quite tame now and was happy to chew on the fresh lawn around the cottage, when no one is around to keep him company.
Ernie the echidna makes an occasional appearance to try and get a nice sweet treat from whoever he can find, if the door was closed at cottage or stone homestead, then he would keep scratching at the door till someone opened it. I had only been home for two days, when I was in my cottage kitchen making a cup of tea before heading over to the homestead for breakfast, when I heard the distinct sound of scratching at the door.
When I opened the door, not only was Ernie at the door but also 4 puggles, and another adult echidna, it appears that Ernie wanted me to meet the whole family, so I went inside in search of some sweet treats for my visitors, remembering the sweet biscuits that Gran had made just a day earlier for me.
Once the echidnas were happily snacking on the sweets, I telephone the homestead, suggesting they come over and see Ernie and his family. Photos were taken, as we watched in amazement how carefree they were with so many eyes watching them, once the snacks were eaten Ernie and family wandered outside and disappeared into the bushy garden, to escape the heat of the day, and we wandered over to the homestead for some breakfast.
During breakfast, I mentioned that I wanted to take the beach buggy out for a spin, and check out the property, which my dad said was fine, and that I could check all the water troughs on the west side of the main part of the farm. As I was driving, I was checking all the new regrowth of trees that had been burnt during the fire, and I noticed for the first time, a large pile of stones between the trees, that look like they had been placed there for some reason, so I stopped to have a closer look at it.
The pile of rocks was about 2 metres high, and at the top it seemed to be very flat, so I climbed up rocks for a closer look, and I found a 100-centimetre thick flat concrete roof, about a metre in diameter, with several rocks on top to try and hide its existence. Below the roof is a gap between the roof and the top of the wall that supports it, which I now guessed is an airway shaft for an underground tunnel.
Looking back towards the direction of the homestead, it made me wonder what else is hidden in that large underground bunker below the homestead.
Driving further to the west, I found one more similar pile of rocks, hiding a concrete airway shaft, and from this location, it was a straight line to the first shaft and onto the homestead, when I came to the boundary fence, just two hundred metres from the beach, I began to search around the area, to see what else I could find.
Copyright July 2018 Preston Wigglesworth, All Rights are Reserved