I’ve started adding some tiny triangles to my collection of revegetation plots over our hills. Continue reading
All those months waiting for rain in the autumn, and now we have too much. Continue reading
The Big Wilt has finally come. Every year when the frosts arrive, the summer plants die back and make way for the ones that can take the cold.
This year we waited a long time for the changeover. In some ways it was a vindication of my messy, lazy style of vegetable gardening, the one where I keep sticking in new things, but don’t pull out the old ones until after they’ve gone to seed and died. Continue reading
There’s a look that weeds tend to have: often spiky like a thistle,;definitely fast growing; pretty flowers perhaps; obviously not delicious to sheep (so still in existence in a paddock);and setting lots of seed for example. Continue reading
Even in the dark I can tell when the river has started to flood. I love to hear the normal soft rushing sound at night, a little like distant traffic. This is more. It’s a freeway roar that means big standing waves crashing against the rocks. Big water on the move is magnificent.
Whole islands disappear, leaving just a set of scrambling waves, rushing to get past. Continue reading
A few old trees make all the difference when you’re doing a bird survey. The bare, newly planted paddocks on Carkella and Adnamira were limited to a few species, mainly parrots (galahs,red-rumps, rosellas) and a small family of magpies.
Red-rumped parrot photo by Leo from iNaturalist.org
The Great Aerial Ocean above our heads, for me, is a reminder that we all live on the one planet. Only a thin band of atmosphere comes between us and the inhospitable vastness of space. Continue reading
Our lovely neighbour Cathy Campbell has a new project. It’s called “Managing Mange in the Mullion” (that’s the title of the Facebook group also) and involves counting wombats, working out how many of them are affected by sarcoptic mange and treating them using “burrow flaps” that deliver a dose of medicine automatically at the entry to their underground lairs. Continue reading
It’s that time of year again, when we happily send some young trees out naked into the winter.
The ones that seem large enough have their wildlife and frost resistant covers removed, so that we can recycle them for this year’s plantings. That’s hundreds of covers to be jerked up, flattened and carried back to the truck, then transported to our overcrowded garage for storage. Continue reading
Farming, like nature, is messy. It’s nice to see the smooth green grass of spring covering the hills and disguising the rocks. The modern golf course look. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily what you need either for wildlife or for grazing stock. Continue reading
Before I got glasses for short-sight at the age of eleven, I used to wonder why people made such a fuss about birds. Most of them were invisible as far as I was concerned. The only ones I never had trouble seeing were the big ones: the egrets, the Wedge-Tailed Eagles, the black swans (which I’ve rarely seen since we’ve been back here) and, of course, pelicans (pelecanus conspicillatus).
Extreme tree planting
Seed collecting is a new art for me. It requires timing, observation and knowledge of what you’re looking for. Mostly I’m nervous that I’ll just take the seeds off a plant and waste them by not planting them in time. Continue reading
As I wandered outside on my way to bed a few nights ago, I noticed a speck of red light on a hilltop.
A star? I’ve been tricked before by how bright they can be in the bush. A red star? Venus? Wrong direction. Definitely not a car tail-light, on the top of a rocky ridge.
As I dithered, the single speck became two, one above the other. Definitely a fire, probably caused by the lightning storm that played around us all evening, making the tv signal jump and flicker. Still uncertain, I consulted the only other person awake at that time, my brother Andrew. He at least has had some experience with fire fighting.
“Definitely a fire. Definitely too wet to do any damage.” The rain was still pouring down. “Go to bed and look at it in the morning.”
Okay, useless consultation over. That ridge is at the back of my Box Gum woodland planting area, full of long summer grass and baby trees. No way was I going to leave it until morning. Although the ground was wet now, a few hours of wind would dry it off to a flammable state. We had a similar lightning struck tree three years ago that smoldered for two days, then took off, burning about forty hectares before it was put out, needing several trucks and firefighters. Continue reading
In the darkness, I heard the dog barking and scuffling with something in the gravel driveway. I assumed it was a beetle. Obviously something small. But when I went over to look I could see it was a snake.
Calypso was dodging in and out enthusiastically. So much for the snake-avoidance training. I shouted at her, though, and she backed off.
“Is it a baby brown?” I wondered. It was too light-coloured for a red-bellied black snake.
But our biological dinner guests started shouting “Typhlops! Typhlops!”
Whatever that meant. Continue reading
Brazil’s coastal rainforest could hardly be more distant from a sheep farm in New South Wales. Yet I found visiting it both inspirational and helpful for my own plans.
The rainforest plant life is nothing like our dry eucalypts and grasses. While there are a few ancient relatives of Australian plants, most of the vegetation looks as if it’s been ordered from a hothouse catalogue – heliconias, bromeliads, philodendrons, orchids and more. Continue reading
Tree planting doesn’t always go as planned.
In 2011, before we actually moved back to Australia, I spoke to Graham Fifield at Greening Australia about being part of their WOPR (Whole Paddock Rehabilitation) program. That program is designed to revegetate an area of 10 hectares or more, using bands of trees and shrubs directly seeded on the contours. It uses existing paddocks, so doesn’t require the extra fencing that most tree-planting needs. After five years, the grazing animals are allowed back in, so it’s not taken out of production permanently.
Direct seeding equipment 2012.
I was interested in trying direct seeding, partly because the way I plant tube-stock trees (with deep drilled holes, plastic covers, mulch, heavy watering, fertilizer, more mulch) is pretty labour-intensive. If seeding worked, it could be an easy way out. I was feeling a little overwhelmed at the (643 hectare) size of the entire farm rehabilitation project, so doing 10 hectares at once seemed like it would be a big step forward. I counted my tree seedlings in the thousands well before they were germinated. Continue reading
One way to stop topsoil from disappearing from under our feet is to use loose vegetation. Anything from grass and weeds to big logs will help catch it as it flows past.
The Southern ACT Catchment Group ran a workshop recently with Cam Wilson from Earth Integral as the expert advisor on how to make the best use of sticks and stones on small areas of erosion before they become large ones.
A knee-deep gully
“Start small” Cam advised. “If the erosion hole is deeper than your knees, it’s probably too big for a beginner”. Continue reading
diamond firetail finch photo by Chris Tzaros
This year the grand finale of our tree linkage project was not even on our own land. To complete the 3.9 kilometres (2.4 miles) of small plots that will allow birds like diamond firetails (stagonopleura guttata) and speckled warblers (chthonicola sagittata) to move around the landscape, we planted a larger area at the edge of the Dog Trap Road. A paddock that actually belongs to our neighbour Suzanne.
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?
And how would they feel about planting in rocks?