The Fifth Annual Tree Planting Extravaganza

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“Trees are the poems the earth writes upon the sky” said Kahlil Gibran. Pete, Shani and Sophie prepare to plant.

This year is our fifth on Yarnauwi, and this June saw our fifth annual tree-planting extravaganza. Over the last five years, our amazing community of tree planters and supporters have planted 5000 trees and other plants on Yarnauwi as we work to restore woodland, stabilise and repair erosion and plant trees for future timber, forage and food. Following the last four years of observation and experimentation, in 2017 our main focus was planting carefully selected species into some of the more challenging areas of the property. Each year we’ve propagated and planted trees sourced from both Trees for Life and our own seed collection. In addition to their generous labour and time, we’re honoured that Yarnauwi regulars Richard and Marg have now immortalised the annual tree-planting tradition in a musical saga, published below and sung to the tune of Loudon Wainwright’s The Swimming Song. The lyricists also pre-emptively apologise for any character assassination contained within.

Putting in soil-stabilising groundcovers around the shed.

A week or two following the tree-planting extravaganza, we were delighted to host the Permaculture Association of South Australia for a walking tour and lunch, sharing our property planning process and how we’ve approached the landscape restoration through a permaculture lens – of which these plantings are a central element. Thank you to Tree Team 2017: Anthony, Pete, Shani, Arlo, Freya, Jeremy, Claire, Innis, Sal, Mary, Branny, Richard, Marg, Nat, Jess, Oliver, Gillian, David, Geoff and Andrew.

One of the electives at this year’s tree-planting fiesta was making plaster casts of animal tracks. Here we have a collection of fox tracks from the dam’s edge.

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A tour, a shed-warming and four years of change on the farm

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Guests take a tour of one of the revegetation areas, inspecting the growth of four years of planting. Photo by Jeff Catchlove.

On a balmy autumn afternoon, we celebrated the new shed with sixty of Yarnauwi Farm’s friends and supporters. Following a tour of the farm, we settled into a shared dinner and drinks by the campfire.

To mark the occasion we also produced a self-guided tour map of important developments and points of interest on the property, hard copies of which were gifted to our guests to be stuck on fridges and toilet doors.

Yarnauwi Farm Self-Guided Map. (Click for a printable A3 version).

The changes that have occurred at Yarnauwi over the last four-and-a-half-years have only been possible through the encouragement, support and labour of our community of friends, neighbours and family. We hope that this celebration went some way towards expressing how grateful we are.

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Establishing an orchard: a dryland experiment

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We’ve always been excited about fruit and nut trees. However, with our erosive, heavy clay soils we felt that the standard method of deep ripping for orchard preparation seemed inappropriate for our circumstances. Instead, with some research, we thought we’d experiment with a mounded method, building soil up on contour to catch rainwater while improving soil structure from the top down.

Wrestling the rotary hoe for the first till of the soil.

We began with constructing a shortlist of common species that are likely to be successful in our climate and soil type. Our intention is to construct a series of small-scale, experimental plantings around the farm before scaling up the most successful species and soil preparation methods. Continue reading

“You’re just so far away”: A tale of a farm shed

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The Yarnauwi skyline is changing: some is grown, some is constructed.

A ‘Grand Design’ it isn’t, but the Yarnauwi farm shed has seen enough delays to make even Kevin McCloud blush. After 14 months, our simple 4-bay equipment shed is finally done. Ordered in January 2016, with the shed company suggesting an initial completion date of June 2016, this modest structure was beset with delays ranging in scale from an apocalyptic winter through to urban tradies that couldn’t quite stomach the prospect of venturing beyond suburbia.

Done!

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Yarnauwi Annual Report 2016

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In birthday cards I often wish the recipient a coming year of “the right kind of challenge”, optimistically suggesting it will herald positive growth and empowerment through problem-solving and negotiation. This year, I got a taste of my own medicine, with a winter of biblical proportions just the beginning of the challenges.

November marks four years since we began the Yarnauwi project. Four years of attempting to regenerate the property to our optimistic standards on the weekends, of packing and unpacking the car, of ferrying and entertaining one, then two, small children, of revegetating, managing erosion, managing pasture, managing water, managing livestock, managing weeds and managing the legacy of past land managers. These are all admirable, ambitious intentions, and what we’ve achieved has only been possible through the support and enthusiasm of our community of neighbours, friends and family. Continue reading

Sheepskins now available!

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In an effort to utilise the whole beast, in addition to mutton and lamb meat, we also offer hides from the sheep selected for slaughter at Yarnauwi. The animals are bred, raised, grazed and slaughtered on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, and the hides are tanned on the Fleurieu south coast at Tony Scott’s Southern Tanners, Port Elliot.

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To our great excitement, the hides have now arrived, replete with all the eccentricities and quirks of our mixed breed flock. This year the Damara breeding is becoming ever more evident with plenty of soft browns and textures that range from silky long pile to short, curly and ever-so-soft.

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Our last hide sale saw the skins being employed intact in home decorating, as well as transformed in assorted craft projects (see Local and Bespoke’s car seat covers from our Wiltshire Horn hides here).

Check out this year’s offerings at our Sheepskins for Sale page, and get in touch at yarnauwi[at]gmail.com if you’re keen!

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The Wet Season 2016

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The first big storm saw the dam fill and rivers broaden to ten times their normal size for an afternoon. A neighbour’s creek crossing dissolved in the flow, the rock and rubble broadcast along the river bottom. The second big storm saw our rainwater tank, still awaiting a shed to fill it, lifted vertically from its nest of stardroppers, vaulting a tractor and four or five fences before being swept off in the swollen waters of the Anacotilla River, carried across two properties and wedged under a red gum. The third storm came with days of warnings, threats of winds over 120km/h and rainfall to rival all of the previous deluges. It left all of South Australia without electricity, the farm a sucking, gurgling swamp, and me walking home through a darkened, scrambling city.

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Mist in the valleys

It’s been a demanding few months on the farm. The persistent moisture has made the ground unworkable, most of the farm inaccessible except on foot and the weather generally hostile to both our motivation and ability to do anything useful. The vast quantities of rain we’ve received however, have meant that moisture has permeated deep into the subsoil, so we console ourselves with the hope that as the weather warms, our tree plantings (including those from earlier this winter) will rocket skywards. Continue reading

Lamb and mutton from Yarnauwi Farm

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After a year or two building up our experimental flock of climate-resilient sheep, it’s time for another meat harvest. This October, we’ll be offering cuts from a selection of one-year-old lamb and hogget, together with some mouth-watering mutton. (For those of you who need convincing on the delights of mutton, look no further than Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who describes mutton as the beef of the sheep world, or fellow foodie Sophie Grigson who gushes that mutton is “beautifully tender, firm-grained, and with a rich but not aggressive flavour,” offering, in comparison to lamb, “more depth of flavour, a more complex rounded taste, more ‘umami’, if you like.”)

All of our sheep are born, raised, grazed, and slaughtered on the Fleurieu Peninsula, and this year will be butchered by the team at Normanville Meat and Seafood. Each cut ordered will be vacuum-packed and delivered in refrigerated luxury to your door at the end of October (assuming you live in Adelaide or surrounds).

In an effort to utilise as much of the beast as possible, once again, we’ll also be enlisting Tony Scott of Southern Tanners, Port Elliot, to tan their delicately mottled hides. These hides will be available later in the year for all your home decor or artisanal urges. Stay tuned.

If you’d like to put in an order, drop us an email at yarnauwi[at]gmail.com, and we’ll send you all the details!

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Hides available later in 2016

The 2016 Drop

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Triplets wait patiently for their mother’s attention again.

The 2016 lambing season has begun at Yarnauwi, with seven lambs dropping so far. One set of triplets, two lots of twins (with three survivors) and our first, puppy-like Damara lamb.

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Damara x Dorper lambs. You may have noticed we also have soursobs.

It’s also our first season experimenting with Manchego the Damara ram. Our initial flock were Wiltshire horns, a British breed that we found were more selective than we would’ve liked in their grazing habits, and sensitive to the exposure of our blistering summers. A few of their lambs were part Dorper, and in the culture of the flock, they’ve mimicked the habits of the Wiltshire Horn matriarchs.  Continue reading

Farming with young children

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IMG_8221One of our motivations for seeking land beyond the city was the hope that it would support our children to develop a deep connection with a particular patch of ground. Of course, in imagination, it’s all pretty easy: self-directed kids building cubbies in the golden light of late afternoon, climbing trees and constructing dams. In truth, it sometimes feels like masochism.

There are so many things we could have done (and are now trying to do), that would have made the first years of working with Yarnauwi easier. Our restorative ambitions meant that we chose a piece of land that, while superbly located, is highly exposed and has been much abused over the last almost-two centuries. It brings with it endless challenge, and the need for constant monitoring and intervention. The weather sometimes feels defined by the kind of driving winds that take water tanks for excursions around the farm. There’s always work to be done, and sometimes it feels like you’re working without progress, in an environment that can be hostile to weather-beaten, outdoorsy adults, let alone toddlers.

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Mother and child, with mother and child.

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