VISITING OUR WEEDS

Thistles and brooms, ryegrass and goosegrass and vetch.

The more I learn about the weeds that infest our paddocks, the more I find myself spotting them when we travel.

Fancy names, multiple names, “Great Mullein”, “Salvation Jane”, “Horehound” and “Pellitory of the Wall”.

Some are clearly at home, well controlled by the climate, or insects or other features that keep them in check.  Others are clearly weeds to the places we visit also.

Some are surrounded by little fences, protected plants in their place of origin, hardly surviving their own onslaught of invaders, like the pine trees of the Madonie forest in Sicily, a tiny patch of grass on the old castle mount in Cambridge, or what looked like serrated tussock in a municipal planter in Malta.

Some of our Esdale weeds were Australianised by the homesick, like Scotch thistles and Scotch broom.

Some were brought for their medicinal qualities, like variegated thistles  or St John’s Wort.

Others were brought even more deliberately, as part of agricultural projects, like African Lovegrass, a contamination of Consol grass, to be used for erosion control.

Blackberries, dandelions, and nettles for food.

Hawthorn for hedges.

All necessary to people who could see no potential in the unknown Australian plants around them.

All essential so the invaders could feel at home, by bringing more invasives with them.

Left behind was the sense of living together with the land, keeping the seasons according to ancient knowledge, like the swallow return in Sicily, which helped farmers time their crop planting.

Such traditional knowledge existed in Australia too, before Europeans.

In the meantime,  Australian plants have joined the worldwide whirlwind of plant mixing, especially eucalypts planted for timber and windbreaks.

The eucalypts in Sicily looked particularly miserable, as invasives sometimes do when a single predator makes it across the big divide and begins to control them again.  Sicily certainly needs trees (the ones that weren’t chopped down by the ancient Greeks were removed by the Normans), but Sydney Blue Gums were a strange and now unhealthy choice.

At least, as we wandered the hills of Sicily, Cornwall, Tamil Nadhu, or wherever, there were some things that haven’t joined our Esdale irritations.Sicily roadside thistle Petralia

Or not yet, anyway.

Sicily roadside thistle
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TERMITE INSPECTION

A scratch at the door.

The dog knows to come around to the laundry.

Another scratch at the door.

Finally I get up to take a look.  It’s the termite inspector. Continue reading

SOMETHING IN THE WATER

Having a river in your backyard is a lovely idea, not always so pleasant in reality, as fences and dead animals go swirling past in a flood, or when you find out that a city upstream is putting something in the water that shouldn’t be there.

Waterwatch has been a great way to find out what actually is swimming or floating under the river’s surface.   Previously we could only guess, but now I know the phosphate, nitrate and dissolved oxygen levels, turbidity, electrical conductivity and ph.Murrumbidgee view from AdnamiraDuring the first year I was collecting data it rained a lot, the river levels were high and the readings were very clean.  Since last year however, the river has been mostly low, and the nitrate levels are generally off the charts high. Continue reading

DONE, BUT DUSTY

Amazingly, we’re done with our main project for 2018!

After the bitter weather on our big planting a few weeks ago, I was worried we’d never get our whole Glossy Black Cockatoo project finished.  Thankfully, Darren Menachemson and a wonderful crew from ThinkPlace plus a Greening Australia “Adopt a Plot” team came to our rescue. Continue reading

UNTHINKABLE WEATHER

After months of flu last year, I was very excited when Ben Hanrahan from Greening Australia offered help with planting our new Glossy Black Cockatoo area on the steep gully behind the house.

It’s been a dry year so far, with only scattered amounts of rain making the soil just moist enough for planting.  Mostly we’ve had sunny days and warm temperatures.

We’d ripped and fenced and prepared for the arrival of the mystery volunteers.  Ben didn’t say who they were, just that there were lots of them.   But as we waited for the buses to arrive, the sunny morning began to sour.  Matthew ran around putting rocks on each coir mat to keep them from flying away.  The piles of pink corflute covers heaved and flapped against the heavy weights we’d put on them.

Looking at the surging clouds, Craig, Ben and Matt began digging some “demonstration” holes, to shorten the planting process.

Then the rain came down, just as the two big buses arrived.  Continue reading

WHERE DO ALL THE OLD TREE GUARDS GO?

covers blown against the fence

It’s an embarrassment that when I see litter in our paddocks.  That’s because it’s usually my own: one of my tree guards that has blown off and landed in the creek, or among the ti-tree, or strung up against a barbed-wire fence.

But collecting them again is the easy part.  The problem is what to do with the hundreds of covers that stay on, doing their job, and then need to be recycled? Continue reading

SPRING SURPRISES

enthusiastic weeds on the sheep manure pileOne of the things I love about gardening is the unexpected arrivals.  After being away for three weeks we had a predictable explosion of spring weeds – sticky weed, nettles and grasses especially.   Many of them arrived with the sheep manure dug up from under the woolshed a few months ago.

Also expected were the running-wildly-to-flower brassicas Continue reading

GOLDEN DAYS

Suddenly, while I was still coughing and wheezing from the flu, spring arrived on the hills around us.  It seemed as if every type of wattle and fruit tree began to flower simultaneously, even while the mornings remained so cold and frosty I couldn’t step outside without going into a coughing fit. Continue reading

DEATH OF A GIANT

When trees attack they often do so without warning.

A few months ago, a massive old eucalypt (I thought possibly a Blakely’s red gum, but my identification skills are poor – or maybe a very large Red Box (eucalyptus polyanthemos )  in the crop paddock near the house suddenly turned into a crushing giant squid-shaped thing, demolishing fences and flattening my hopes of helping it live into another century. Continue reading

UP AND DOWN THE HILLS

Despite the dry ground and heavy frosts, 2017’s winter planting season has gone really well.  I’m down to a couple of weekends planting extra plots to use up 100 leftover plants.

Increasing the number of regular helpers has made a great difference, as has Matthew’s reliability and skill as my outstanding Chief Planting Assistant. Continue reading

RAKALI SIGHTING

I’ve been looking out for Rakali for a while now, ever since my wonderful assistant Matt found a yabby claw out on the creek bank while we were doing  water testing at Lizard Crossing.   I was told that water-rats (or rakali) like to take their food out onto the bank to eat.

Unfortunately, the first one I saw was dead.  So was the second one.

Continue reading

A RIPPER OF A DAY

Sometimes everything just seems to go right.  This last weekend was one of those.

We finally had a planting location where we could use the ripper.  This is my big project for this year – a big windbreak on Adnamira which will connect a gully with the existing ridgetop windbreak.

Continue reading

BEETLING ABOUT

We have some beautiful beetles here, and some that annoy me by eating trees that I would like to have survive, but I’d never paid much attention to the little black beetles that crawl around on the ground.

Then in March we had a visit from Kip Will from UC Berkeley who was interested in carabid ground beetles.  (Not rabid, as I thought when he first said it.)  To check out what we have, we set up pit traps (plastic beer cups buried in the dirt) at various locations in the Box Gum woodland, helped by Fabian and Martta.

Continue reading

MAKING WILLOWS WEEP

When I was a child I loved to play around the “magical” twisted trunk of a huge weeping willow (salix babylonica) in a gully behind the house on Adnamira.  It was a little off-putting, however, when I traipsed down the paddock one day with my adventure Barbie dolls,  to find a whole nest of baby black snakes all writhing under the roots just where I’d planned to set up camp.  Nevertheless, I still have a fondness for weeping willows, from a bit more distance. Continue reading

WATCHING GRASS GROW

Ever since I went to the Friends of Grasslands workshop in 2014 I’ve been itching to try my hand at revegetating native grasses, rather than only trees and shrubs.

PB030862Of course, that’s not all that easy to do.  Sue McIntyre has some good suggestions, but we are mostly forced to deal with weeds where we can, and hope that native grasses and forbs can do all right on their own.

On both farms, my parents made a big effort to “improve” the pasture with introduced grasses such as phalaris, clovers, and lucerne, which increase the carrying capacity for sheep  (you hope),  but need fertilizer and water to survive. During the “Millenium Drought” from 2001-2008, it was the native grasses that kept at least some coverage on the bare hills because of their ability to withstand lack of water. Continue reading

LIZARD CROSSING

It’s the time of year to see reptiles out and about on the roads again. bearded-dragon-on-road Bearded dragons (pogona barbata) do threatening push-ups as they try to frighten off approaching cars.  Or they lie as flat as possible like this one is doing, before scuttling quickly away.

Continue reading

A WALK IN THE GARDEN

This is the time of year for walking in gardens, when they’re often at their most beautiful.    They’re also the most work if you want to choose a particular look, rather than just take what comes.

waterfallOut on the hills, “what comes” is pretty good right now. Continue reading