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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Winter and the One Rock Dams: erosion control after the rain

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Rain, and a full dam.

By late July this year we’ve already exceeded our entire rainfall for 2015, and for now, the rain shows no signs of abating. This is fantastic news for our revegetation efforts, and our dam is now almost full for the first time in two years. With heavy rains – we managed to top 100mm (4 inches) in a single day – it’s also a chance to test the effectiveness of the erosion control strategies we’ve employed.

With significant erosion in some key areas of the property, we’ve worked to adapt erosion control strategies such as those practised by Bill Zeedyk and Craig Sponholtz (see April’s Waterway Restoration workshop/working bee and our Resources page for more information). In particular, we’ve constructed Zuni bowls, for arresting headcuts, and One Rock Dams, to slow water flow, catch sediment and gradually lift the floor of erosion gullies. After the recent deluge, we toured the works to see how we went. The Zuni bowls have had mixed success: those in relative stable locations have been effective, those in dispersive soils have been unpredictable. The One Rock Dams (ORDs) have been generally successful, if swamped by sediment!

The impact of 100mm of rain in one day is significant: exposed areas lose significant amounts of soil (some areas of gully floor had almost 30cm of freshly deposited sediment), and areas of dispersive soil go berserk, collapsing in all directions. For some of these areas, we’re continually seeking further advice, but for those we can manage, we monitor and tweak over time, and try to “let the water do the work” in healing the landscape.

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Matching trees to tricky spots

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Eucalyptus occidentalis, a hardy, salinity and waterlogging tolerant timber and bee forage WA species, putting on new growth despite a dry year.

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.

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One persistently hostile area of the farm offers saline, slaking, seasonally waterlogged clay with tunneling and cracks you could lose a child down.

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

The Fourth Annual Tree Planting Extravaganza!

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Reforesting the Fleurieu, one tree(guard) at a time.

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.

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The 2016 Crew

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

Winter active

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Blue gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon) seedlings ready for planting.

Before Yarnauwi, we never really appreciated winter. Now, through the long dry season, we find ourselves yearning for a chill edge to the wind, the moisture in the grass, and skies of dark clouds. We’ve tried to plan our year to mimic the lives of so many of the organisms that occupy our landscape: in the hot, dry times, we go into maintenance mode, watching and waiting for the first rains before we spring into action again. With the greening of the landscape, it’s all on: tree-planting has begun, shed sites are levelled, the grass grows. In winter, the kangaroos converge in clans numbering hundreds, displaced from the pasture, they lounge among the seedlings in the reveg areas while we look on nervously.

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Joel and Annika work on a rock dam to arrest erosion on a boundary before the rains hit.

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And then the rains hit.

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Waterway restoration at Yarnauwi

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In April, we belatedly participated in Clean Up Australia Day, focussing our attentions on the final lode of rubbish in the gullies and constructing erosion control structures in areas of active erosion. Kitted out in dust-masks and gloves, our amazing team of volunteers completed in an hour what it would take us weeks to do alone, and by day’s end had removed six trailer-loads of steel, and about 20 sacks of rubbish, together with miscellaneous sun umbrellas, fitness treadmills and bmx frames. (See our Curated Junk page for similar treasures – undoubtedly there are more to come!)

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Now launched: Etsy shop

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We are pleased to announce the launch of our Etsy shop! Here we will be selling Joel’s limited edition lino prints of Fleurieu landscapes, and Sophie’s one-off embroidery designs, as well as future art and craft concepts. Hope you can stop by, and of course feel free to give us any feedback!

We also still have a few sheepskins for sale, these are not on our Etsy shop, but can be found on our blog site under the top tab ‘Sheepskins for sale’. We hope to have more for sale later in the year.

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“Black-fronted dotterel”: embroidery for sale

The Black-fronted dotterel is one of our favourite Fleurieu birds. It’s commonly seen on the edges of dams, mudflats, freshwater swamps, and lakes, a tiny bird that runs so fast on twinkly little legs. We love watching them run around our dam, foraging in the mud. The piece is stitched freehand using some new techniques.

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“Good Intent”: new embroidery for sale

This work depicts the ship Good Intent, a wooden ketch that plied the Fleurieu coast during the 1850s, passing the iconic Norfolk Island pines of Lady Bay. At one point during the glory days of South Australia’s ‘Mosquito Fleet’, the Good Intent sank at the Second Valley jetty while loading wheat, but was able to be raised. Lady Bay, between Normanville and Second Valley, is a spectacular piece of Fleurieu coastline featuring these trees that were planted in coastal areas all around Australia for the tall, straight timber they provided for masts.

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In other news, an early break in the summer season has greened up our pasture nicely and our flock are happy and content (we’ve never seen green grass here in February!)

Exploring the Fleurieu’s climate future

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We’ve recently read a couple of books that have served as a catalyst to revisit what a future climate scenario might be like for the Fleurieu Peninsula, and how we can ensure the greatest resilience for our patch of ground. The books are two practical volumes on climate change, the first The Handbook: Surviving and Living with Climate Change, by Jane Rawson and James Whitmore, is a tour of practical household and community strategies for adapting to climate change in Australia. The second, Two Percent Solutions for the Planet: 50 low-cost, low-tech, nature-based practices for combatting hunger, drought and climate change, is a farming and land restoration-focussed collection of case studies collected by Quivira Coalition co-founder, Courtney White. For readers that may’ve grown weary of the political inertia around climate change, not to mention the vast scale of the problem, the practical, household-, community- or farm-scale focus of both books offers a practical way of re-engaging with the climate challenge. Two Percent Solutions serves as an optimistic companion read to the sometimes gloomy vibe of The Handbook, with its strategies offering scope for both climate mitigation and adaptation. Continue reading