OPINION: Doubts raised over ‘drier’ season as winter arrives

A SODDEN mat of multi-colour leaves lay across the grass like old wet carpet.

Officially, it is day four of winter and rioting tree tops have left deciduous branches bare.

The usual South East winter chill seems even colder this year.

Obviously, the South Pole has secretly moved to somewhere between Port MacDonnell and Beachport.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) seven-day forecasting predicts day-time maximums of 13c to 15c this week.

But get out the sunscreen for Sunday’s heat wave – a maximum of 16c is predicted.

Twenty years ago, we would joke that little boys who told fibs grew up to be weathermen – weather forecasts for the following day or two were a bit hit and miss.

Farmers and fishermen relied on things like the moon, ants, ducks and sea temperatures to predict the weather.

Now meteorologists in far away cities receive satellite images every 10 minutes as well as assess a series of computer models.

With the addition of local knowledge from meteorologists, BoM releases seven-day forecasts which are usually correct in major towns and cities and variable in outlying areas.

The forecasts are even available on mobile phones – but only if and when there is mobile coverage.

Now the BoM is hoping to soon offer 14-day forecasts as well as its three-month predictions.

Such forecasts will especially help event organisers, tourism operators, emergency services, fishermen and farmers.

But regardless of forecasts, this winter it seems harder to crawl out of bed in the dark and cold, fire up a tractor, load up the ute and trailer with hay and head out to hand feed stock.
Many farmers do it alone with driverless utes.

The ute crawls along in low-range four-wheel drive and the farmer jumps out from behind the steering wheel.

Then she, or he, steps onto the back of the ute, or a trailer and starts to feed out biscuits of hay or silage while the ute crawls along in first gear by itself.

Once finished, the farmer jumps off the back, scampers to the front of the ute and while running along, opens the driver side door and jumps in.

Sometimes there is a “pheeew” sound and the brow is wiped in relief following another close call with a fence, bull hole or tree.

Pulling out of low-range four-wheel drive, the farmer starts driving again – usually to a hay stack to load up with more fodder and repeat the process.

Often ABC radio chatters away to itself in the ute cabin from first light to after dark while a newspaper progresses with the dog from the seat to the floor.

Michael stops his old ute on a side lane, winds down the window and waves.

“Been a nice drop of rain,” he says.

“But I am bloody sick of hay feeding, I know what the weather is doing in America but not here, not to mention the septic tank is blocked again.”

Dressed like someone from Antarctica, there is no complaint about the cold.

“We live in a lucky part of the world,” Michael says.

“We might not get much in the way of local weather, but at least we do not have hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, Trump or Shorten.

“Did I mention I am sick of feeding out hay – when is the sun going to shine for the grass to grow?”

BoM is forecasting a drier and warmer winter – but I am just not sure about the “warmer” bit.

• Chris Oldfield can be contacted by email on christobel47@bigpond.com