This blog is no longer kept.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Droughts and Flooding Rains: Home School Australian Drought Relief

Parts of Australia are in severe drought. Cattle, crops and farmers are dieing. Suicide has become an option for our farming men who internalize drought-induced inability to pay debt, as personal failure.

Boy is becoming socially conscious (a rich task focus for us) and has an understanding of environmental protection. Last night I was telling him about the shower time limit in Brisbane – the motel I stayed in had a big sign asking people to limit their shower to four minutes. This started a discussion on water conservation and why drought happens.

Discussion turned into today’s home school lesson for SOSE (Studies of Society and Environment): Australian Drought and what we can do to conserve water.

Using an excellent lesson plan from the ABC's Behind the News we began with talking about what worries Boy in relation to having no water. The lesson plan will become an ongoing project where Boy has to interview other kids his age to find out what worries them. I aim to get Boy to do a blog questionnaire so that other kids who are home schooled can answer the questions and share their comments.

ART: Boy also completed a simple worksheet on dry weather and trees needing water (pictured). His insight into other things that require water to survive astounded me. Despite verbalising his knowledge, the only thing he would draw was a tiny frog in the branch of a tree.

READING: To finish up, Boy read a poem written by Murray Hartin (Australian Bush poet and storyteller) as part of a Salvation Army DVD project to help our depression affected farmers:


Murray Hartin
February 21, 2007

His cattle didn't get a bid, they were fairly bloody poor,

What was he going to do? He couldn't feed them anymore,

The dams were all but dry, hay was thirteen bucks a bale,

Last month's talk of rain was just a fairytale.

His credit had run out, no chance to pay what's owed,

Bad thoughts ran through his head as he drove down Gully Road.

"Geez, great grandad bought the place back in 1898,

Now I'm such a useless bastard, I'll have to shut the gate.

Can't support my wife and kids, not like dad and those before,

Christ, Grandma kept it going while Pop fought in the war."

With depression now his master, he abandoned what was right,

There's no place in life for failures, he'd end it all tonight.

There were still some things to do, he'd have to shoot the cattle first,

Of all the jobs he'd ever done, that would be the worst.

He'd have a shower, watch the news, then they'd all sit down for tea

Read his kids a bedtime story, watch some more TV,

Kiss his wife goodnight, say he was off to shoot some roos

Then in a paddock far away he'd blow away the blues.

But he drove in the gate and stopped - as he always had

To check the roadside mailbox - and found a letter from his Dad.

Now his dad was not a writer, Mum did all the cards and mail

But he knew the style from the notebooks that he used at cattle sales,

He sensed the nature of its contents, felt moisture in his eyes,

Just the fact his dad had written was enough to make him cry.

"Son, I know it's bloody tough, it's a cruel and twisted game,

This life upon the land when you're screaming out for rain,

There's no candle in the darkness, not a single speck of light

But don't let the demon get you, you have to do what's right,

I don't know what's in your head but push the bad thoughts well away

See, you'll always have your family at the back end of the day

You have to talk to someone, and yes I know I rarely did

But you have to think about Fiona and think about the kids.

I'm worried about you son, you haven't rung for quite a while,

I know the road you're on 'cause I've walked every bloody mile.

The date? December 7 back in 1983,

Behind the shed I had the shotgun rested in the brigalow tree.

See, I'd borrowed way too much to buy the Johnson place

Then it didn't rain for years and we got bombed by interest rates,

The bank was at the door, I didn't think I had a choice,

I began to squeeze the trigger - that's when I heard your voice.

You said 'Where are you Daddy? It's time to play our game,

I've got Squatter all set up, you might get General Rain.'

It really was that close, you're the one that stopped me son,

And you're the one that taught me there's no answer in a gun.

Just remember people love you, good friends won't let you down.

Look, you might have to swallow pride and get a job in town,

Just 'til things come good, son, you've always got a choice

And when you get this letter ring me, 'cause I'd love to hear your voice."

Well he cried and laughed and shook his head then put the truck in gear,

Shut his eyes and hugged his dad in a vision that was clear,

Dropped the cattle at the yards, put the truck away

Filled the troughs the best he could and fed his last ten bales of hay.

Then he strode towards the homestead, shoulders back and head held high,

He still knew the road was tough but there was purpose in his eye.

He called for his wife and children, who'd lived through all his pain,

Hugs said more than words - he'd come back to them again.

They talked of silver linings, how good times always follow bad,

Then he walked towards the phone, picked it up and rang his Dad.

And while the kids set up the Squatter, he hugged his wife again,

Then they heard the roll of thunder and they smelt the smell of rain.

To Murray Hartin: Thank you for such a moving poem that beautifully captures the depressive plight of our farming families. In the words of Boy, "That was sad. Can we help those men?" Yes, Boy, we'll go and make a donation to either the Salvation Army or through the Westpac Bank. We'll also buy Murray Hartin's Drought Relief DVD as soon as it becomes available.

Related articles by me about the Australian Drought Relief:

Photo (Outback 5, Images from a farm after a 3 year drought) courtesy of matmos at Stock.xchng)


Vickie Farquhar said...

Hi Megan!
I really liked Murray Hartins poem, it conveys the true tragedy of our farmers but also gives a message of hope.

Here's the poem you asked me to post... a different slant on the same subject.

No Rain Again.

A chandelier of stars adorns my sky tonight.
So clear and bright, there is no need for moon.
Yet I would rather see the clouds rain liquid diamonds,
making glorious mud beneath my dusty boots.

Hot winds sear the land and parch the soil -
temperatures still soar and tree sap boils,
making River Gums, with parchment leaves,
explode like New Year pyrotechnics.
The fires rage across the land and still no respite
from the heat and still no rain.

Smoke blankets bush and city both alike -
no place is safe, no place to hide .
Ash colours all creatures, equal in their grief
for this, our maimed and suffering land.

Vickie Farquhar ã January 2007.

Megan Bayliss said...

Vickie I love your poem and I am privileged to be able to share it with other readers.

It's a lovely way to create further social understanding between home schoolers in different countries. Whereas most people know of Kangaroos and Koalas not everyone knows of the dreadful droughts that cripple many of our farmers and us non-farmers.

Is your poetry all on your site for others to read?

Vickie Farquhar said...

Thank you Megan,
I'm glad you think it can be useful to others.

I have a lot of my poetry on my site, but many more that I've not had time to put up. There a quite a few with Australian subject matter. If you check out the left hand menu, you'll find a link to my poems.

I must warn you that some of my work has an 'adult' theme...but that's only because I am one.


Murray Hartin said...

Thanks so much for the kind words, the poem has certainly struck a chord with a lot of people.
Good to know also that it has younger minds thinking as well.
Will have a CD out soon so stay in touch



Lisa said...

Great lesson. I was watching a news program not too long ago about the droughts in Australia. My husband and I made a donation right after watching the program.

Here via the carnival of family life.

This blog is no longer kept. I am instead blogging only to Imaginif Child Protection became Serious Business