We recently celebrated the appearance of our first blossoms on the wattles planted in our revegetation area. At almost three years old, this Acacia paradoxa has offered a few tentative blooms and while it’s a modest showing, we’re absurdly excited about it. It marks a shift in our ‘wilderness’ zones, from plants that we’ve cultivated and maintained towards plants that have survived through dry years and the appetites of kangaroos, to become plants that are beginning to thrive and reproduce independently.
In early June we hosted our third annual tree-planting fiesta. Through the generosity of our friends and family, we planted another 800-odd trees, forming shelterbelts and habitat corridors along the southern and western boundaries. As in previous years, the trees are mostly local provenance with some propagated through Trees for Life, and others from seed we’ve gathered. This year, we’re also experimenting with enhancing seedling resilience by inoculating them with beneficial fungi and mulching each planting, in addition to protection with roo-thwarting tree guards.
We hope the annual planting is becoming a tradition. Despite the aching muscles and brisk breezes, there’s great pleasure in working among friends beneath a big sky. For the brood of kids, there are gullies and mallow thicket cubbies to spend days leaping into. There is great pleasure too in the sense that this future, hoped-for woodland is an enduring legacy of the companionship and generosity of our community. Continue reading
We’re in our third season of tree planting at Yarnauwi now, working to revegetate sections of the property for habitat, shelter and timber. We’ve planted about 1,000 plants a year, from groundcovers to future woodland giants. Once they were guarded from marauding roos, we’ve necessarily had a philosophy of leaving the plants to survive without too much intervention. Even in a dry year such as 2014, we had a modest 60ish percent survival rate, but with El Niño tipped to recur in 2015, we’ve tried to further refine our approach to give our trees an improved chance of survival. Of course, there are absolutely no guarantees it will work, or will work for everything, but it’s worth a shot.
This year, we’ve also planted our first, experimental, woodlot of river oaks (Casuarina cunninghamiana) in an awkward corner of the farm. The paddock was too small and inaccessible to deep rip, so we began by marking contours with a bunyip water level, an essential DIY tool for measuring and marking slope (see Brad Lancaster’s guide to bunyip construction and usage here). Continue reading
Recently we’ve been obsessing a bit about the history of our landscape (here, here, and even here, for example). It comes as the consequence of the last few years of reading and thinking about how Australia’s landscape and water systems have changed over time, but we hope it’s not purely an intellectual exercise. Understanding how our landscape was 200 years ago acts as a good guide for planning its future potential and limitations. By attempting to unravel the threads of actions and consequences that have reshaped these hills and valleys over the last couple of centuries, we can also not just address symptoms (such as treating an erosive headcut with a Zuni Bowl), but can also have a go at working on the causes of dysfunction in our soil, water and ecosystems. A lofty goal, but as Wes Jackson quips, “if your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough!”
This spaghetti-and-meatballs flowchart is our first go at representing what might have happened in our neighbourhood over the last 180-odd years, compiled from reading, observations, historical records and discussions. It provides us with a list of things to do as we attempt to address elements of this (for example, in this year’s tree planting, we’re inoculating our seedlings with beneficial fungi to restore mycorrhizal networks). We expect this chart to be tweaked, adjusted and rewritten over time as we discover new ideas or revise our assumptions. Perhaps a next step might be to construct a sequel that shows how we might attempt to improve some of this stuff.
Are there connections, consequences or other things we’ve missed, overstated or got plain wrong? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
We recently welcomed new daughter Annika into the world, and she had her first tour of the property at less than 2 weeks old. Despite the barrage of new sensations, big skies and brisk breezes, she snoozed for the duration! We greatly value the knowledge, experience, wonder and curiosity that can be cultivated through a relationship with a particular place, and we’re delighted that we’ll be able to nurture this with Annika at the farm.
In our first year of working on the farm, we really tried to practise the permaculture principle of long and thoughtful observation, but it always competed with our own impatience to see change. In that first flurry of clearing gullies and planting seedlings, I remember trawling the internet for before-and-after shots of other people’s reveg projects: something to help imagine a future for the block. Seasoned tree-planters told us we’d see real change in five years, the optimistic suggested three, others, fifteen.
Now at the two year mark, we are noticing change. Removing cattle and fencing sensitive areas has allowed a fuzz of groundcover to begin growing over the barest of gullies. Fences have reoriented deer and kangaroo movement and grazing patterns. Some seedlings planted in the cold, soggy winter of 2013 appeared to die, but then surprised us by resprouting and growing at a cracking pace the following autumn. Other plants that were repeatedly pruned back to their tree-guard height by roos have invested their growing energy into roots and woody stems.
A year or so ago, we celebrated the first phase of fencing on the farm: defining our ‘wilderness zones’ by carving out seven-ish hectares of erosion gully, remnant vegetation and waterlogging for regeneration. We commented at the time at how much a few posts and wire redefines a sense of space. Now we’ve almost completed all of the major fencing for the property. What began as essentially one vast, 20-odd hectare paddock, has now been reshaped into 8 smaller paddocks, together with 3 revegetation zones/habitat corridors. Continue reading
In August 2014, Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi granted us the name Yarnauwi to describe the landscape of our farm. We approached Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi, a body of Kaurna people and linguists dedicated to the revival of the Kaurna language, for a property name as a way of acknowledging the enduring connection of the Kaurna nation with the landscape of the South Western Fleurieu.
Just as the last rays of sunlight slipped below the cliffs, Asher and I arrived at the block with the final trailer-load of livestock. It had been a massive day of zig-zagging across the southern Fleurieu, transporting our small flock of Wiltshire Horn sheep and alpacas from Hindmarsh Valley to the farm. Driving along Range Road in the late afternoon light, we did our best to not think of the wedge-tailed eagles picking over the lambs as some kind of omen. Continue reading
Over the weekend of the 12-13 July, around 30 dedicated volunteers descended on TBC for our annual tree-planting fiesta. Over two days, we managed to plant some 800 locally indigenous plants in the two ‘wilderness zones’, kick-starting their transition back to pink- and red-gum woodland. The first area was planted outwards from the former Bee House (currently tree-planter snack dispensary and rain shelter) with around 600 plants selected to address the water-logging in the area and to revegetate in and around erosion gullies. The second area saw the planting of around 200 plants, radiating from the existing remnant redgums. Once again these plants were selected to address water-logging and erosion as well as provide shelter to adjacent paddocks. Over the following week, we dodged thunderstorms and icy squalls to add another 150 or so plants, with about 200ish to go! Continue reading