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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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
One 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.
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.
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