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.
Plus fantastic volunteers on our big planting days. So much better than when I started out all by myself in 2009 with a mattock, hauling buckets from a distant dam for water.
I loved introducing lovely Finnish Rotary exchange student Martta to Australian tree planting, although she wasn’t wild about the sharp saffron thistles.
Slowly, we’re building our wildlife connections and shelter across the landscape, despite the rocks and steep slopes.
I love work.
I can watch it all day.
For several days this year I’ve had an extra farm assistant in the form of backpacker Emil, who’s been doing things that I’ve managed to avoid for months, but know are necessary. Continue reading
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.
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.
Of 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
It’s the time of year to see reptiles out and about on the roads again. 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.
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.
Out on the hills, “what comes” is pretty good right now. Continue reading
My goal this year was to:
- Check and do some replanting if necessary on last year’s plots on Adnamira and Carkella. My guess was 50 to 80 because I knew some of them had had a hard time with the dry weather.
- plant 30 trees/shrubs in tiny triangles on Adnamira
- 30 trees/shrubs in a small connection plot in the Tank Paddock behind the homestead
- 60 trees/shrubs in a rocky knoll connection plot in the dam paddock on Esdale
- 500 trees/shrubs in a windbreak on Esdale (funded by Local Land Services)
- TOTAL – 670 approx
What actually happened: Continue reading
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
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
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).
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