Walking the Land: Part Two
“Why isn’t there any grass?” Our five year old daughter’s alarm given urgency by wondering what her two pet rabbits would eat on land that had no grass. Even the gully – a water catchment and sheltered from the worst moisture-sucking ravages of howling nor’westers – bereft of a single green blade.
The bleached skeleton of a sheep, lying near the trunk of a gully willow, holes for eyes in a tapered skull, pointed up the slope to land coloured yellow-brown: paper-thin, brittle. But the summer drought that persisted to grimly reap the autumn, and the sheep that the farmer (who’d sold us the place), allowed to over-graze till there was nothing left for them to eat: well, those combined forces lost out to the resilience of grasses.
At its nadir, that winter of ’92 saw the mercury plummet to minus 18 and snow accumulate to a depth of some 70 to 80 centimetres. The cool, wet spring that followed was a reluctant starter, but the water table was replenished. Come early October there was a blanket of green.
We began our life here mid-March of that year. Freshly departed from the wet west of the North Island’s Kapiti Coast, our young daughter had no reason to doubt whether grass was ever anything other than green.
An inauspicious beginning. We would be relying on the permanence of the established rye grass and white clover pastures to provide food for our animals and meat and milk for our family.
The reverberations of that brutal first drought (despite holding off buying any livestock till the following spring), an echo chamber through the years. In terms of seasonal extremes, I can only ever imagine climate change as a future cause of us witnessing a land as desolate as it was that first autumn.
I got to thinking about how, when we moved here twenty-eight years ago, there was no green grass. I was meant to be telling you about the grass this spring! Will publish a post on that next Monday.
Thanks for your company. Bye for now.