Six years ago we first invited friends and family to come and plant trees at Yarnauwi. They came, dug holes in a windswept paddock, hunched their shoulders against the cold and ate lunch beneath one of the property’s two big old red gums. That first year most of the plants were devoured by kangaroos and deer. Amazingly, our friends and family came back the following year and every year since, with the tree-planting weekend growing into an annual celebration of moist ground and hope for the future.
Towards the end of 2012 we first came to Yarnauwi Farm. The property at that time was a single paddock, carved up with junk-filled erosion gullies and with two regal, remnant red gums smeared up the hillside by the wind. However, set within a grand landscape of rolling hills and a couple of kilometres from the coast, there was something about it that captured our attention and our aspirations.
Five years later, the property is beginning to change. The survivors of annual tree planting are now heading skywards, most of the junk is gone, paddocks have been fenced, some erosion gullies are stabilising, sheep graze, fruit trees peek from the tops of tree guards and rain thunders on a shed roof. The last five years have brought with them an almost vertical learning curve, challenge, plenty of failures and the indescribable satisfaction of seeing seedlings become trees become woodland.
We’ve tried documenting this process online here at yarnauwi.com, but to celebrate this milestone we’ve also produced a limited edition book curating photos, illustrations and writings from the last five years.
Yarnauwi: The First Five Years is divided into sections on the history of the property, trees and tree planting, creek restoration and erosion management, treasures extracted from the junk heaps, property planning, “obtaining a yield” and landscape change through the Fleurieu seasons. Each section is copiously illustrated with photographs and drawings and hopefully provides inspiration to others who are seeking to regenerate their own landscape or who have a connection with the spectacular landscape of the Fleurieu Coast. A number of sections contain “before-and-after” photographs of locations around the farm showing the impact of tree planting and low-tech erosion management strategies, predictably however, with a few decent summer downpours the changes were even more dramatic just a month or two after taking the final photographs!
It’s available for purchase now from our Etsy shop and we’ll also have a few copies available, together with sheepskins and farm- and Fleurieu-inspired artworks at the Second Valley Market from 10.00am-3.00pm on Saturday 27 January 2018.
Yarnauwi: The First Five Years
Softcover, 48 pages, full colour on premium satin paper.
Approximately 21.7cm x 28cm.
One of the most persistent challenges in our work to revegetate areas of the farm has been managing kangaroos. Despite its previous status as woodland, for decades the farm has been an enforced grassland as hay paddock and pasture, the preferred environment of Western Grey Kangaroos. While early accounts of the region describe the southwestern Fleurieu as “kangaroo country”, land clearing, the elimination of predators such as dingoes, reduced hunting pressure, and in our case, the provision of year-round green pick in the form of a nearby irrigated golf course has contributed to a steady increase of kangaroo numbers.
We’ve observed that the kangaroos follow a seasonal rhythm of converging on our property in numbers during the cooler, wetter months, before dispersing into smaller family groups as the weather warms and dries. During this time, they typically move into the neighbouring golf course, and because of the constant availability of fresh feed it is rare to see a female kangaroo without a joey. While most species of kangaroos typically prefer grass, the Western Grey is also noted as a browser of shrubs and seedlings. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Impatient as we are, we’ve become slightly obsessive about “before-and-after” photos in an effort to stay inspired about the possibilities for landscape transformation. About 15 minutes down the road from Yarnauwi, our friends David and Gillian have been gradually revegetating a former grazing property in the hills above Cape Jervis. Perhaps because of its steepness, the property has retained a good number of big old pink gums, together with the occasional ancient sheoak, offering the beginnings of a canopy for regeneration. Seven years ago we helped out with one of their first planting weekends, and I recently unearthed some photos taken at that time. With David, we recently walked around the property to admire the last seven years of growth.
David and Gillian have been philosophical about kangaroo grazing, with plants getting no more protection than korflute guards. Some plants have been repeatedly mowed down, reaching no higher than the tree guard after seven years, while others have finally stretched above mouth height and are now heading skywards. David notes that no plants were about adult should height for the first five years – something we can relate to at Yarnauwi. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
For the first couple of years of tree planting, we adopted a pretty haphazard approach, planting a bit of everything everywhere, and waiting to see what would stick. It took only a couple of months to highlight which areas offered the conditions for revegetation at a respectable pace, and which did not. Some patches only appeared to support certain species, others seemed to support nothing at all. The challenge has been to work out why. For enthusiastic amateurs like us, the working out comes through plenty of observation, plenty of reading and plenty of research.
For some areas on our farm, vegetation is a valuable indicator, plants like sea barley grass (Hordeum marinum) suggests mild salinity, and, in our case, seasonal waterlogging. In others, aspect and soil type present challenges. Three years of tree planting and walks through local bushland have also given us a sense of which local species might suit which locations. We keep trying new configurations in the same places, and also try to mimic the natural process of succession by planting hardy pioneers first, then waiting for them to establish shelter and canopy before adding others. As the balance of the landscape has changed through clearing, cultivation and the associated effects of erosion, shifting water tables and changes in nutrients and soil biology, many of the species that may have dominated a couple of centuries ago no longer tolerate certain areas of the block. Likewise, some areas that may have been conducive to vegetation when woodland was already present, once cleared, they seem to be hostile to its re-establishment: for example, a north-facing corridor of grey, cracking clay that has resisted our affections for two years now. Continue reading
Over the June long weekend, once again our loyal crew of tree-planters descended on Yarnauwi for the fourth year of tree planting. This year we planted 600 plants, local species associated with pink and red gum woodlands.
After 3 years of planting, many patches of seedlings are now well established, and on rainfall only they’re slowly growing into the landscape. Our mission for this year was to fill in some unplanted spaces, trace windbreaks and corridors between islands of vegetation, replant tricky spots with specially selected vegetation and to expand some of our successful woodlots. Spots that we cleared junk from earlier in the year were planted out, and areas of erosion control will also be planted with sedges and reeds this season. Continue reading