I would like to introduce you to the beautiful Boyle family from the Adelaide Hills community of Lenswood. Jess and Shayne Boyle have been married for nine years and have three wonderful children. They are currently living in Lenswood, which is one of the areas that was severely impacted by the deadly Cudlee Creek bushfires just over a month ago.
I spoke to Jess last night to catch up on how everything was going since then.
“There’s a bit of normality that has come back to the Boyle home, with the kids back at school and the family as a whole being in much better spirits.”
For those who may not know, Jess’s husband Shayne was caught in the forefront fighting fires, whilst helping protect his family’s farm and ended up suffering 30% burns across his face, arms, and legs that has so far, required two skin grafts.
“We have personally been deeply affected by the Cudlee Creek fire as it raged towards our home and neighbouring lands in December 2019 – just days before Christmas – when the fires occurred. My husband, Shayne got caught in an up draught and was badly burnt while defending my family and neighboring properties. While a wall of fire approached, his tractor got stuck on a fallen tree. He ran for his life, ringing his own ambulance and trying to coordinate a safe pickup. As he ran, it was miraculous in amongst the thick smoke that he was met by the CFS crew members, who were about to turn around as the fires were getting too dangerous. He was rushed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and has had 3 skin grafts and surgeries so far. I still remember when Shayne called me from the area – I wasn’t aware at the time (because Shayne hadn’t mentioned it), but he had called me for help. Thinking that he wanted me to go out into the flames and fight the fires, I immediately said no. I was wearing a t-shirt, a pair of shorts, and had my thongs on – I wasn’t dressed to fight fires and didn’t want to put myself at risk and leave the kids out to fend for themselves. He then hung up, but was able to track down the Basket Range CFS crew in the area asking for help, because he knew a way out and needed someone to transport him out safely.
He had still, at this point, not mentioned that he was severely burnt. It wasn’t until my brother-in-law met with him that I was informed about what was unfolding and just how serious his injuries were that I realized the magnitude of the situation. I went into panic mode almost instantly. I was hot and dehydrated already and so, when I heard the news, I thought I was going to faint. I was a bit disappointed in myself, because I thought I would do well under pressure, but I just felt myself crumbling in that moment.”
Shayne was admitted to the Burns Unit in the Royal Adelaide Hospital and needed significant treatment over the next couple of weeks. He’s reported to be doing so much better today though, with his dressings getting changed on a weekly basis, with him regaining some of his mobility, and by generally being in good spirits with a fantastic support system around him. He has still got some open wounds that are taking their time to heal and he’s a bit limited to staying indoors and not have direct exposure to sunlight, as the burns on his face are still sensitive, in addition to his normal pigment and strength being quite weak, but the important thing is that he’s back home surrounded by his family and friends after a life-changing couple of weeks.
“He is a mechanic and is always using his hands, so it’s been amazing to see the way the skin grafts on his arms and legs. However, we all know that there is a long road to recovery ahead. It has been an extremely tough few weeks as a family with three young girls under nine years of age. My husband and the girls’ dad just got out of hospital trying to recover together with our evacuation from our home over the Christmas period. Seeing their dad badly burnt (with severe burns to his body and face) has been an ordeal and there are many new normals we have to adopt. The level of care and attention to detail that everyone in that Unit offered to Shayne and to us has been so humbling and heartwarming! Shayne was initially completely immobilized and required 24×7 care – from having a drink of water to just having a chat to keep himself sane! Going back to the RAH as an outpatient and being able to bring Shayne back home (and not worry about leaving him all by himself) is a feeling that still gives me a high!”
Jess feels like the past month has been a giant blur, where she has felt a wave of emotions that were quickly balanced by the (hundreds of) beautiful messages of support that she received in the weeks following the news breaking of Shayne’s heroic bid to help his family and neighbours by putting himself on the frontline.
“I cannot explain to you enough about the feeling of gratitude that I have for everyone who has banded together to help me and help us get through this major challenging period. From the staff at the Burns Unit, friends and family to the Maxwells (Christine & Ewen from SEE Design + BeSpoke2), who looked after Shayne at the hospital via regular visits, while I was looking after my kids, to our amazing and generous South Australian community, who donated their time and goods – it’s been an extremely surreal experience!”
Alongside juggling the responsibilities of being a full-time mum and wife, Jess also runs her very own business – Rustic Wren – and specializes in creating custom leather journals and handbags.
“It is one of the few things that has kept me going – Rustic Wren. It is my emotional + creative outlet. This is my small business, where I handcraft and architecturally design leather products from my workshop in Lenswood. I use the highest quality leather to create bespoke tote bags, journals/notebooks, artist brush rolls, and assorted accessories.”
Given the recent bushfires and how it has directly affected Jess and her family, she hopes that the upcoming Gathered SA Market next weekend will allow for her to support her family, in addition to helping her stay busy, productive, and positive during a bleak and challenging time for all in the Adelaide Hills. Since their goFundMe page went viral, she has received an outpouring of offers, which has overwhelmed her in the best way possible.
“I’m so blown away by everyone who put in an order within hours of that page going up – the support has been enormous and I am basically head down, bum up in getting everything organized for existing orders, as well as for the market next weekend. You can expect to see the ever popular tote bags, along with a new colour, keeping in with RE-GENERATE theme of the market – a moody, dark green color tone. Typically, we offer brown and black colors, so I thought I’d mix it up a bit and inject a bit of fun to our otherwise neutral range! With the kids back at school as well, it is giving me the chance to make more and create more.”
Jess also sees her business as a way to escape her routine for a bit, where she can meet her customers face-to-face and have that social interaction that makes her feel good about running a business that brings so much joy to them. She truly believes that it doesn’t feel like work when “you see the biggest smiles on your customers’ faces”.
She recounts how she was disappointed at not being able to make it to the original Lobethal edition of Gathered SA (which was eventually rescheduled after the bushfires presented with significant danger), due to the time of the year being a hectic and busy one. However, she is so excited to return to the Market family that is strongly ingrained with Jenna O’Dell’s vision of being supportive, family-oriented, and all about supporting local.
“The first two days were the scariest and most horrific, where even I was not happy driving through our regular paths – gum trees were still burning. There was a strong need for a clean-up, because there were smouldering trees everywhere. The roads were just not safe enough to drive on. However, the Council sent some amazing teams of individuals, who came together and ensured that all the roads were cleared of debris and those that still required attention were sign-posted.
Looking back on it all, through all the flames and ash, we are now blessed with a beautiful albeit eerie landscape that needs to be seen to be believed and appreciated. Nature has a way of repairing and rebuilding itself, which we are already seeing from brand new floral growth that is literally rising from the fireground. The Fox Creek ‘Down Hill’ bike track not too far away from us used to be overgrown, lush, and oh so green! It is now covered in tones of brown and black, but it is weirdly stunning to view at different times of the day, when the sunlight hits it from different angles. It’s a whole new landscape!
It’s been hard to keep our spirits high and stay positive, but I’m staying strong for my family. There are no words to really explain how we all feel about this fire. It has touched us all in one way or another and has changed us. We look out over the blackened landscape and are speechless, with many questions and stories to come from this disaster.”
For those who are planning a visit to the Adelaide Hills over the next couple of weeks / months, Jess is urging you to seriously consider supporting local. Most importantly, Jess wants us not to forget about the community here. Think about every item / service you wish to purchase and look up how a business in the Adelaide Hills may be able to offer that. From getting a cup of coffee to buying apples from their organic apple growers, it is important to remind yourself that the devastation caused six weeks ago will most likely take the Adelaide Hills anywhere between 18 months to 3 years to recover and rebuild, so every visit and every purchase is going to be instrumental, in terms of redeveloping the Hills community.
Jess Boyle from Rustic Wren will be participating at the Gathered SA Market in Lobethal on February 8 + 9, 2020.