Over the last few years, we’ve spent a great deal of time learning about the landscape of Yarnauwi, and the broader southwestern Fleurieu Peninsula. This has been essential for us in helping us to understand how the landscape works, and therefore how we can best work to ensure its health and function. We’re inspired by a statement from the 2015 Greenhorns New Farmer’s Almanac, where Connor Stedman writes, “Farms, forests, and grasslands can store and regenerate natural capital again, rebuilding the ecological fabric that is the ultimate source of our prosperity and survival. But to know how to undertake that stewardship, it’s not enough to know the land as it is now. We need to dig below the recent surface and go deeper – find the older ecological and cultural stories of a place. It’s the wildlands that hold these stories, and it’s these lands that will return them to us if we know where to look and how to listen. An agrarian economy needs to tend, restore and engage in a deep relationship with the wild as well as the planted field.”
In this spirit, in this poster we’ve tried to imagine and illustrate the landscape of Yarnauwi and the surrounding area as it may’ve appeared before colonisation. It summarises our reading and research, as well as our experiences exploring more intact local landscapes. It’s a work of imagination, it’s definitely not to scale, but we hope it helps communicate some of the complexity of a functioning landscape and the interactions of the Kaurna in maintaining its function and ecological health over millennia. Then, as now, the southwestern Fleurieu was a cultural landscape, maintained through intentional management practices. This poster is also an effort to acknowledge our own place in the long history of this landscape.
While our thinking about the Australian landscape has been influenced by many ideas, we often return to a few books in particular: The Biggest Estate on Earth by Bill Gammage, The Bush by Don Watson, and Dark Emu: Black Seeds Agriculture or Accident? by Bruce Pascoe. All are revelatory in their assessment of landscape function and change, track them down at your local library. We haven’t referenced the poster due to space limitations, but you’ll find a lot of the themes covered in previous articles on this blog (for example this one on relationships between rain and forests, this one on The Biggest Estate on Earth, or this one on impacts of land-clearing), and we would welcome your feedback or queries about where particular ideas have come from.
I’m often reminded of something Canadian-based farmer Michael Ableman said about farmers not just being producers of food and fibre, but also cultural producers. In acknowledging the fundamental role of food and food production in communities, it makes sense that farmers and land managers should also work to cultivate a culture of connection within their communities and with their local landscapes. Gestures like this poster are an effort to do that, we hope you enjoy it!
And by the way, we reckon Yarnauwi would’ve been a landscape like that shown between the two waterholes in the poster, SA Blue Gum woodland, with red gum woodland along drainage lines.