TIME

THE DUST BOWL DOWN UNDER

Farmers in Australia are struggling to cope with the country’s hottest-ever drought
Sheep feeding on Epping Farm near Pilliga, New South Wales, in November, more than six years into the drought

WHEN THE WIND BLOWS, KRYSTAL BULLEN’S HOME can vanish in an instant. It sits on 4,000 acres of dust outside Pilliga, a New South Wales town nearly 300 miles northwest of Sydney, and a good gust will engulf her homestead in a brown haze. “I’ve kind of given up on cleaning,” says Bullen, 36, laughing at the dust that coated her windows when TIME visited in December. Among the more pressing matters: a debt of nearly half a million dollars, an injured husband and a farm to manage alone during one of Australia’s worst-ever droughts. “We’ve had droughts before,” she says, “but nothing of this caliber.”

Jack Slack-Smith, a 65-year-old farmer, listens to a weather report in his living room at Epping Farm. The drought has reduced its sheep stock from 7,000 to approximately 3,600,

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