Australia

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.

The lovely ThinkPlacers turned up on a foggy morning and chose the highest ridge to plant.

frozen water buckets

We had to chase out a family of kangaroos that were still confused by the new fences.   We also had to crack the ice on the frozen water buckets we’d stashed ahead of time.  Brrrr.

They (the people, not the kangaroos) were a great team, both careful and fast.  We had the assistance of mascots in the form of dogs and toddlers, which always adds to the entertainment.

By the time we called a halt, they’d got 170 more allocasuarinas into the ground among the rocky ridges.   It’s going to look extraordinarily different when they all grow.looking uphillPlanting definitely moves more quickly where we’re able to put rip-lines in ahead of time, and because they’d come back so promptly, the soil still had just enough moisture.

The Greening Australia Adopt A Plot trio arrived a few days later, and polished off the hollow in the middle of the site.  They were even faster, getting 130 in 3 hours.  These included some extra eucalyptus blakelyi, dives, and a variety of shrubs that I added because I thought they would do better than the allocasuarinas in the heavy soil in the hollow.

The big issue is still the dryness of the ground.  The hills look quite green from a distance, but a lot of it is rosettes of Patterson’s Curse covering bare ground.  It’s hard to remember that the hollow is often wet and water trickles down the gully after heavy rain.  The fencers found that when they drilled for posts, the ground moisture was gone after 30 centimetres, and below that was bone dry.  We gave each plant as much water as we could, hoping for the best.    Last time we planted in dry ground, we lost some to the dryness, and some to having planted in places we didn’t realize were actually boggy.

This plot is pretty important as I’ve been working making links to it over the past four years – something that I hope will make it a really effective and productive area, for many types of wildlife including the Glossy Black Cockatoos.  sequence of planting

Matthew and covers

I’m hoping for some rain tomorrow to help settle these new plants into place, and to settle the unseasonal dust.

Thank you again to everyone that helped make this possible.

 

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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.  cockatoo 2 thinkplace team arrivalThe lovely volunteers from ThinkPlace were instantly soaked despite raincoats and plastic ponchos, but gamely set about transporting food and drinks up to the verandah of the house.  All concept of having lunch out in the paddock was abandoned, but the crew was lively and willing to give some planting a go.

Ben explained the Glossy Black Cockatoo program, where allocasuarina verticillata (drooping sheoak) that have gone missing from the landscape are being replanted to allow these small black cockatoos to move around the landscape again.   I gave a short explanation of what we’re trying to do at Esdale and Adnamira, including encouraging biodiversity and resilience in the landscape while still maintaining a productive sheep farm.

cockatoo 2 blakely box gumI also really want to protect and preserve the big remnant trees we do have, some of which could be up to five hundred years old.  They desperately need understorey plants that will protect the birds that then eat the insects that destroy the trees.   One of our most beautiful Blakely’s red gum trees is in the area we were planting.

Having cowered under shelter through what we hoped was the worst of the weather, we all headed up to the gully for planting demonstrations (almost drowned out by the flapping noise of plastic ponchos), and then let the volunteers loose.  The rain returned, with more wind, covers flying across the hill and having to be chased down, mattocks swinging energetically as more holes were dug, each plant gently separated from it’s tube, planted and protected.

I took to making covers, keeping my foot on the pile while shoving stakes through the holes.  They wrestled in the gusts, occasionally flying back to spreadeagle against the fence.   Usually, that’s the easy job.

When the sleet began, the amazing crew was already two thirds of the way across the hillside.  I worried that if we went on, we’d lose people to hypothermia, but they had their heads down and fought up the other side of the gully toward the fence.

After another twenty minutes or so, Ben decided things were getting too dangerous, and we went back to the house to eat the lunch (out of the rain).    At that point most people were chilled and willingly headed back to the buses to go home, but a small crew went back and finished the last dozen when the rain let up slightly.

cockatoo 2 after thinkplace planting 1

I was frankly amazed that we got 240 trees planted on steep, rocky ground under those circumstances.   Thank you ThinkPlace (and Greening Australia) for dealing so well with our unthinkable weather.   cockatoo 2 after thinkplace planting 3 sunny

 

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

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

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

LEARNING TO COUNT SEEDLINGS

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 approxsection-1-looking-toward-cockatoo-area

What actually happened: Continue reading

PIXIE DUST, KITES AND PINK HATS

There’s nothing better than a beautiful day out on the hillside, unless it’s a beautiful day out with lots of lovely people planting trees.

kristen-among-the-rocksjake-helpingplanting-with-a-puppy

This year we had the wonderful team from Justin Borevitz’s lab at ANU, along with another hundred yellow box  (eucalyptus melliodora) that they raised from seed, genotyped and either pampered or subjected to all sorts of tests (drought strtrees-in-truckess, various sprays etc).  In the last two years we have planted 30 to 50 of these which despite some setbacks in the way of frost, not to mention last autumn’s endless dryness, have been doing well.   The main challenge is transporting the big pots (this year big sections of pipe) up to where they’ll be planted. The rest of our plants come from Murrumbateman Landcare, Greening Australia or Damian DiMarco’s nursery on Wallaroo Road, making as wide and balanced a range of species as we can manage. Continue reading

AFTER THE FROST

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

MIGHTY MURRUMBIDGEE

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

OUT STANDING IN A FIELD

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

Red-rumped parrot photo by Leo from iNaturalist.org

Continue reading

WOMBAT NEWS

IMG_4337Our 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

STRIP TREES

It’s that time of year again, when we happily send some young trees out naked into the winter.Yin and maximum number of covers ever

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