What the heck is happening people? You might have been wondering where I disappeared to. Well, we’ve been dealing with devastation for the last five days and I’ve had NO time at all to blog and check in with you. Last Monday morning, around 4.12am to be precise, we were woken by howling winds. And I mean howling with a capital H.

The house was shaking and windows were rattling. Only a few weeks ago, we were hit with violent winds. No trees came down but we were kept up all night by the roaring noise as the winds thrashed the trees. But this latest round was far worse and the high winds were clocked at 130km/h. We lost twelve trees and we’re talking massive trees.

Here’s the problem  – the trees that crashed down were eucalyptus and willow. Not native species. These trees don’t put down strong, deep roots. And because we’ve also just been hit with snow and rain, this has further weakened the root systems. The previous owners of the property planted a heck of a lot of eucalyptus and willow rather than native species.

Throughout the day, the winds kept howling and all we could do was watch the trees crash down. It was truly frightening and frankly I thought I was caught in a hurricane. Well, actually: according to the Beaufort Scale, I was in a Category 12 Hurricane Force storm. Yeah, don’t need a scale to tell me this. Our outdoor furniture was flying about in the wind, the pet beds disappeared into our stream, hay was flung about and the massive trees crashing down took out a number of electric fences. We lost power for around one hour but were lucky on this count. Friends of ours didn’t have power for over one week during the last high winds because they badly affected local power lines. And during that little breeze that hit the Canterbury region, whole forests of pine trees were flattened.

El Hubs and I huddled in the bed as the winds swirled around the house. We did expect the large plate glass window in the living room to get blown in but it withstood the onslaught. Zeph and Zsa Zsa were safely tucked up in their crates, which are positioned in an alcove – so if a window in the room blew in, they would be out of harm’s way. They seemed to be a little scared but we thought it best to leave them in their crates, which we also covered with a blanket.

When light revealed the devastation, I didn’t let Zeph or Zsa Zsa outside because I was too scared a tree might fall on them. I rushed them out to do their business and rushed them back inside. They were pretty scared, looking around at the leaves and branches flinging around them. By the end of Monday, things had returned to normal and we were left with a property that looked like a bomb had hit it.

We’ve spent the last four days clearing the branches and small trees but we had to bring in a tree man – a dude with a huge chainsaw and tractor that pulls out the tree stumps.

Locals are saying that two strong episodes of winds so close to each other is a tad unusual. They keep talking about 1975 and the strong winds then. That’s the thing around here: everyone remembers the quake of such and such year; or the strong winds of 1975; or the dreadful snowstorm of 1995.

Frankly, we’re a bit over the weather here. If it’s not winds, it’s snow or rain or quakes. We have considered a move back to Australia but we really like New Zealand and I don’t want to return to high temperatures during Summer. Have you heard about the devastating bushfires and ferocious wind conditions in Sydney? The Sydney Morning Herald is calling them the worst bushfires in a decade.

This is one thing I don’t miss about living in Oz. Every Summer, I would worry about the possibility of a bushfire near our home, which backed onto a very large nature reserve full of eucalyptus trees. When I was growing up in Sydney, controlled burning by the fire brigade was a common occurrence during cooler months and helped to reduce fuel buildup from trees and vegetation. I well remember environmental groups arguing that controlled burning threatens native flora and fauna.

So you have the situation now where many forests and nature reserves around Sydney, and in other parts of New South Wales, have large tracts of trees and vegetation that have not experienced controlled burning, which could potentially reduce the intensity of a bushfire. An article I was reading recently suggests that environmentalist polices have led to uncleared bushland being “lethal infernos” – and read about the chap who ignored Local Council laws and cleared 250 trees from his private property to create a fire break next to his home. When bushfires roared through his town in February 2009, this chap’s home was the only one left standing.

It’s a contentious issue I guess. But I lived in Australia for decades before moving to NZ and I don’t recall such devastating fires as Sydney and NSW have experienced in recent years. I’m thinking the hurricane winds of NZ might be preferable!


A large willow uprooted.


The next day, Zeph inspects a large fallen Eucalyptus.


A number of willow trees down.


Zeph and Zsa Zsa inspect the MASSIVE root system of a fallen Eucalyptus tree.


Zsa Zsa used to bury her bones around this willow tree.