Rural

Family blessed with first decent rain in two years

Another 19mm at Clancella Downs, 20km south of Charters Towers, puts the March total above 100mm. They haven't cracked the triple digit monthly rainfall for two years.
Another 19mm at Clancella Downs, 20km south of Charters Towers, puts the March total above 100mm. They haven't cracked the triple digit monthly rainfall for two years. Contributed

AS A bush kid, the rain and the lack of rain etches strong memories in your mind for the rest of your life.

For Kylie Stretton, this could not be more true.

The Charters Towers resident, who now has a family of her own, lived through such severe drought she forgot the sound of croaking frogs.

So at 13, when it began to rain and the drought started to break, Kylie had no idea what the croaking sound coming from the creek was.

For Kylie, living through extreme weather events are childhood memories, ones that will stay with her forever, ones she now gets to share with her own children.

Managing a small beef property, Clancella Downs, since July 2012, the Stretton family has not seen any proper rainfall since they bought the place.

With this wet season being the worst to date, the family of four was beginning to lose hope and stopped checking the rain gauge until about a month ago.

The family finally recorded a 100mm rainfall total for the first time in a long time.

"Fortunately, the last couple of weeks has helped us out a lot. We're certainly not back on track but we're looking a lot better than what it was at the end of February,” Kylie said.

"For this month, I think we're up to 120mm, so that's the first time we've cracked the 100mm for over two years.

"It is very exciting because we've been trialling new grazing methods and we keep saying to ourselves, 'I wonder what this place could do if it actually did rain'.”

Kylie Stretton and her husband with their two kids, Ella-Beth and Clancy.
Kylie Stretton and her husband with their two kids, Ella-Beth and Clancy. Paula Heelan

Despite not having decent rainfalls, the family has looked at the situation as an exciting time to trial different methods.

Since buying the place in 2012 they have risen their ground cover and are now sitting 20% above regional average and have tripled the carrying capacity of what the size of their place would normally carry.

"It's only a very small place so we have to make it punch above its weight because it's an integral part of our bigger business,” Kylie said.

There was a small moment when the family did start to wonder what was going to happen in February, when there had been hardly any rain at all.

They were worried as to what they were going to do with their weaners this year.

"We bring all our weaners home here and whatever trade cattle we buy out of the saleyards we bring home here and we didn't think we were going to be able to do that this year,” she said.

"We thought we were going to have to find agistment, but that was going to be scarce because nowhere else had gotten rain.”

Their doubt was short-lived though, with 72mm falling in one shower last week, which was the property's biggest single fall in a "long time”.

Three showers of 17-20mm followed, which encouraged more species of grass to come up, along with more vulnerable species to grow.

While the rain brought relief to business plans, the biggest joy Kylie has received was seeing her kids make the same memories she did through extreme weather events.

"The kids have only had one chance to play in the creek over the last couple of years and that was only a couple of weeks ago. I told them I didn't care if they were late to school, they could play in the creek.

"Usually it does rain at night or when they're at school so they don't often have a chance to go out, so Sunday afternoon they were out in the mud and they came back looking all feral, so I had to take a photo like that. They are 13 and 11 but you're never too old to play in the rain.

"When I was growing up the same thing happened. We went through a really severe drought but some of the best memories I can remember are flopping around after my dad in gumboots through running creeks and running with the dogs in the rain.

"It's certainly a good childhood memory and one that stays with you forever. I think certainly as a bush kid the rain and the lack of rain etches the strongest memories on your brain for the rest of your life.”

Topics:  bring her down huey charters towers clancella downs drought let it rain rainfall


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