Each year I worry I won’t get my army of new plants into the ground. Each year it’s a huge relief when the main planting begins. This year we were waiting for the new windbreak fences to be completed, so we did individual paddock trees and little triangles first and finally started the main windbreak planting on July 10.
These windbreaks are intended to replace the pine ones that were planted in 1967 and extended in the 1980s but are suffering from a fungal disease. It took me a while to figure out the pines were all going to die, one by one. I remember planting the first ones as a seven year old, learning to siphon water through the hose from the tank on the back of the truck, and filling long-neck beer bottles to provide a slow trickle of water for each tree. For some reason, we seemed to have a supply of empty beer bottles sufficient for each tree to have its own. Enough for an army.
Unfortunately, the pines got sick.
When I thought just a few were dying, back in 2011 with Charlie and Jake Shapiro, we planted some replacements in among the existing trees. That was fairly successful.
However, planting among dead trunks and branches is pretty awkward. Also, the old fence line made an area too narrow to be really effective, so I’ve had a new fence built that will eventually double the width and hopefully provide twice as much wind protection.
I’m sorry to see the old trees die, but also happy to replace the pines with native trees and shrubs because the new plants will make a connection and habitat for native wildlife, which the Californian Monterey pinus radiata could never do.
Once they’re chopped down, we’ll either have to burn them on site to make way for the new trees, or if we can drag some away to make erosion control in our many gullies, we’ll do that.
Before we remove the old pines, though, I want to have the replacements ready to do their job, rather than allowing the wind to blast over the narrow ridge.
It was great to have a good crew turn up for the first major day of planting – Dmitry as Chief Tree Assistant, Marga, ANU biology students Zac and Oscar, plus a returning Jack Lefevre who helped plant in the drought-ridden winter of 2019. That year we were also on Adnamira planting long windbreaks to hopefully benefit Superb Parrots.
As in 2019, for this year’s windbreaks Craig was able to use the Bobkitten to make rip-lines, which are much easier than digging a hole for each tree with a mattock. Unlike 2019, however, I am hopeful of a high survival rate for this year’s army, as the ground moisture is good after two years of La Nina rain.
In addition to the pine windbreak replacement, we are adding another windbreak to make a sheltered area for Frank’s sheep yards, which will also help the small bird connections to the remnant paddock trees.
Unfortunately the second day of planting was pretty windy, although we managed to time our lunch break with the rain squall, so were under shelter in the hay shed, even using the bags of insulation (for the Adnamira house) as extremely comfortable seating.
We got the last of this week’s tree soldiers lined up for their battle with the elements just as the real rain came in.