The real value of a fence

A fantastic achievement: some of the 11kms of fencing we have rebuilt so far

A fantastic achievement: some of the 11kms of fencing we have rebuilt so far

Impossible to believe that over a month has passed since we last posted anything.

The time has disappeared in a hurricane of activity, most of which has focused on fencing.

We have around 50 kilometres of fencing on the farm, all of which has been affected by the fire in some way and 43 kms of which requires replacing.

There are a number of costs attached to the job of getting the fences up (and therefore the farm running) again.

There are the obvious costs of fencing material and labour to clear the damaged fences and build new ones.

But there’s also the cost of what you can’t do until those fences are built.

Right now, we can’t adequately manage our sheep and cattle, hence the farm is not working as it should and it is not generating income.

Most of our cattle are on other properties, and we’re so grateful to our neighbours who have provided a temporary home for them. A lot of our sheep are ‘roaming in the gloaming’ until we have adequate paddocks to put them in. This also means that flocks have separated and merged with others, which will require a lot of sorting when we’re finished fencing.  In short, all our normal breeding, shearing and sale cycles are interrupted.

We’re racing against time really. Although we can sell our stock (and we have sold a few sheep already), we would only have to replace them again later. It’s a matter of constantly weighing up short- and long-term cost:benefits.

Thankfully, recent rain has brought a regeneration of grass and we don’t need to feed sheep by hand any more. Which is just as well, as the feed we were so generously given during this time has started to run out.

And then there’s the emotional cost. It may be hard to understand this, but we had beautiful fences, built in an era when people had the time to do things with care and precision, an era when craftsmanship was a matter of pride. To see them destroyed, knowing we do not have the resources to rebuild them as they were, has been heart breaking.

An obvious question is: why weren’t our fences insured? The answer is that it was not economical. We already have a hefty annual insurance burden with home, income, contents and equipment. To ensure for something like a natural disaster (pretty much the only thing that can destroy all our fences) which only happens every 50 years or so, is something we could not afford.

But we ARE rebuilding our fences, and there is great joy to be found in seeing a fence line up again.

So far, we have replaced 11 kms of fencing. This wouldn’t have been possible without the work of Blaze Aid volunteers. These hardworking, committed, amazing people come from all over Australia to help rebuild fences for rural communities recovering after natural disasters like fire and flood. Without them, we would have been lost.

And then there are our neighbours and friends who came even as the fire was still going, helping us assess damage and fix fences to prevent more stock losses. Many also donated fencing material and lent us equipment. Whilst everyone who visits at the moment ends up doing something in relation to fencing, there are many who have gone above and beyond: Mark and Jo Cottle; Rick Hain and Jenny; Duncan Curry; Peter (PJ) Kobold and his friend Nick and cousin Paul; Graham and Marian Thistleton; Margaret Summeril; Neil Lynch; Robert Cox; Peter Kropmann; Rod and Will Nichols and our mail lady Mary, from Nimmitabel Post Office, who left 50 steel posts at our front gate one day.

Supporting BLaze Aid is an extraordinary community spirit. Cooma and Nimmitabel Lions Clubs, Cooma Rotary Club, the Country Women’s Association, Nimmitabel Community Group and a group of dedicated ladies from Kybeyan Valley continue to provide Blaze Aid volunteers with meals. In addition, recently, Nimmitabel locals Isabel Harrington and Margaret Weston raised $500 to help with breakfasts and lunches for the hard working Blaze Aid volunteers. The Nimmitabel Show Society continues to provide Blaze Aid with a temporary home at the showgrounds.

We are also so grateful to the companies which have sold fencing material at cost prices and donated material, including Cooma Rural, Alpine Steel, Schmidt Quarries and Allan Spack Steel; and Australian Composite Technology which donated around $40,000 worth of plasmar fence posts to Blaze Aid in Nimmitabel for all the farmers that were affected by the fires.

Finally our thanks to family and friends further afield who have so kindly made financial donations which helps us buy much-needed fencing material.

Depending on the terrain and type of fencing you need, a kilometre of fencing can cost up to $13,000. Our new fences are the result of extraordinary community spirit, generosity, long hours, sweat and aching muscles. Their real value is inestimable.

Emma, Justin and Bill

14 March 2013

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