I was quite cautious when the idea of a “Green Army” was proposed. It seemed like a political stunt. And the cost of the payslips was going to be subtracted from Landcare, a community organization I admire a great deal.
Who was this Army going to attack? The trees? Us?
Who was going to join up? Willing people? Or grumpy teenagers who’d rather be playing video games, only moving when they were driven along with pitchforks?
Ben Hanrahan from Greening Australia had arranged for the Green Army to come and plant some trees for more Glossy Black Cockatoos on May 26th. I was very glad someone else was planting that slope, because it is one of the steepest, rockiest places we have. It does have some remnant Blakeley’s Red Gums (eucalyptus blakelyii) that I would like to encourage and reconnect to other bushland. Ben thought it was perfect allocasuarina verticillata country.
We’d had to run around madly because I didn’t have the new fence up, and our neighbours Frank and Andrew needed to keep 450 wethers in the paddock where the trees were going. I’d failed on basic communication 101.
Generously, Andrew, Frank and Craig spent a Sunday morning rolling hinge-joint netting carefully down the hill, banging in star pickets and propping the corners with more star pickets, rather than the usual sturdy steel and concrete strainer posts. Frank even mostly approved the line I’d decided on after hiking about the previous day searching for a way through the rocks. It’s not possible to put a star picket through sheer rock, let alone set up a strainer post. If the line is too long, the star pickets will be pulled out of the ground and dangle in the air when the wire is strained up.
Craig, me and our assistant Rachel Everett, from CIT, had taken three hours to find a line that went between the rocks, without too many bends that would need a strainer. Frank just made the area smaller at the top end, muttering “bloody Kidman had nothing on this sort of land grab”. I believe that means he’d rather I didn’t keep fencing off sheep grazing land for trees. He helped anyway.
The Green Army arrived out of the fog on a Thursday morning and immediately set to work. There were no whips or ankle irons in evidence. All the soldiers seemed to be smiling and video games were not mentioned. In fact one member had been to Esdale last year, as a CIT student, for bird-watching and tree-mulching. They weren’t rushing, but they were efficient, knowledgeable and cheerful.
It wasn’t a really large army – more a skirmishing force of six, plus a couple of managers. Plus Ben, me and Craig enlisted for the day.
In good Army style, they attacked at the bottom of the hill and worked their way steadily to the top. Luckily the only resistance was offered by the steep terrain and the rocks. The fog immediately surrendered and disappeared.
Apparently joining up is a popular option for people on working holiday visas. For young locals interested in environmental work, it does give them an option to get paid experience. Over lunch, the small force spent a while calculating how much they were earning if you included or excluded their travel time, which is usually long.
The Greening Australia planting system used small corflute guards, and rather splintery stakes stapled to the covers. It’s certainly quicker to plant without the minerals, mycorrhizae and mulch that I generally use. I just hope they survive as well. Never mind, it was good to get something in on that rough country. Until Ben suggested it, I’d been thinking of waiting another year or two before tackling it.
Getting the water to the seedlings was enough of a challenge. The lower ones could only be reached by driving into a steep gully with a heavy tank of water. The Army used buckets instead of our usual wandering about with the hose dripping between trees, so we managed to get the lower group all done in one tank load. The hillside access would have been a real challenge if we’d had to do several trips, slipping and sliding on the wet grass. The top of the planting hill was easier to reach by vehicle due to the work we did on the tracks last year, but it was still heavy labour hauling buckets and a hundred metres of fire hose to each plant.
Despite that loss, the Army rolled out again, still cheerful. On to the next project tomorrow.