What we've been doing recently:
Dalton Public School's bush block Working Bee went well. JCLG members were joined by parents and kids in attacking a dense infestation of False Lucerne, Sifton Bush and some bits of Black Nightshade.
We have removed about 70% of the problem weeds. Dizziness, weak limbs, shortness of breath and the like (amongst the youngster) prevented us doing the lot in the one day. Subject to the agreement of the committee we will be back – possibly in June. Dalton School parents and its principal are keen to finish the job and they agree we should mark its completion with appropriate festivities.
The block is a pretty good example of a box gum grassy woodland. We have invited the Lachlan CMA [which has already foreshadowed the possibility of a small financial contribution to the site] to join JCLG and the school in deciding how we can best use and manage it. We hope to have made some progress on this before the final working bee.
Thank you to Janet Heffernan and Norman Hindley for managing JCLG's involvement in this exercise.
Revegetation on Farms Field Day Report
There was a very good turnout to the Greening Australia, Lachlan CMA and Upper Lachlan Landcare field day at Crookwell earlier this month.
We started at Tom McCormack‟s property Red Hill at Lost River. Tom has been putting in tree belts on his massive wind exposed property since the 1980s. He credits JCLG member John Weatherstone with starting him on native plants rather than pines and he continues to be advised by John. His motivation for the extensive work he has done is largely to benefit from wind breaks for shelter, improved production and salinity control but he is also pleased with the biodiversity gains that are made. He favours planting tube stock over direct seeding but is, I think, giving direct seeding a go soon.
Greening Australia‟s Lori Gould emphasised that, whether you are planting tube stock or direct seeding, preparation is the key to success. Spraying before planting is important, as are other preparations you can make. John Weatherstone is an advocate of ripping and mounding. In recent years Tom says he has been aerating his soil before planting with an aerator similar to those used on golf courses. He pulls his behind a tractor but another person at the field day has hired a machine and towed it behind a quad bike. Tom is sure this is a worthwhile approach and, as his plantings have been very successful, it seems well worth a look1.
After an excellent lunch, we went to Bolong at Laggan. This property was long owned by the Anglican church and you may have seen its name towards the bottom of the wool sales reports from time to time. It now has a new owner and he has just had extensive Whole of Paddock Rehabilitation [WOPR] vegetation belts planted along the contours in a massive bare and exposed paddock. His reason for doing this, he said, was purely utilitarian. He wanted to produce more and better wool with reduced costs and he saw WOPR as being a good way to help achieve this.
Greening Australia representatives emphasised that their programs had a strong emphasis on production. There was clear evidence that revegetating farms increased production and improved stock welfare as well as bringing environmental benefits. Tom McCormack‟s example showed that are sound economic benefits to be had from putting in tree belts. The Bolong property showed that you don‟t need to be an extreme environmentalist to see the benefits of WOPR – economic rationalists can use this really great program without any embarrassment at all.
I can‟t stress too strongly how useful this program can be to everybody and how much satisfaction can be gained from being involved. You won‟t regret making an obligation free enquiry about how WOPR could benefit you. Just contact Greening Australia‟s Lori Gould on 6253 3035 or Email email@example.com
Pest Animal Field Day Report
Boorowa District Landcare and the LCMA put on a very good pest animal field day recently. It featured presentations on all the common feral pests we have to deal with and combined formal sessions with practical demonstrations of pest control practices outside.
Just a couple of things I learned that were new to me include:
I have often heard it said it is no good controlling foxes because that will just allow rabbits to run rampant. Leaving aside the terrible damage foxes cause, the evidence is that the best you can hope to do by allowing foxes to remain unchecked is to reduce rabbit populations by 25% in bunny plague years. Usually, you might reduce rabbits by about 10%. Clearly, this is not enough to make any difference so both pests have to be controlled.
1 Since returning from the field day I have read the CSIRO is researching the benefits of a number of practices to improve pastures and woodlands, including soil aeration.
I used to think that having obvious signs of human presence around fox bait sites such as paint or flapping tape to mark the site will prevent foxes taking baits. Not so says an expert brought from Victoria to speak on the day. He has demonstrated this by brightly marking bait sites and even urinating on them himself. Foxes have taken the baits from these sites just as much as any other.
To make a significant impact on fox populations you need to remove 84% of the population in your area. Strategic group baiting is, of course, the best way to do this and then supplement it by shooting and trapping.
You may have seen advertisements for fox lights. These are battery operated randomly flashing lights which are claimed to deter foxes from predating on lambs. One workshop attendee said a test of these done by a local had found them to be effective, at least for a short time, for up to 150 metres. So, they are not a complete answer but could well be helpful at critical lambing times.
This event was put on as part of a plan to encourage wide spread community fox baiting in the Boorowa district. It was well planned and organised and I learned quite a lot on the day. Feral foxes are number four on our community priority list so, once Tussock Tamers ceases to occupy our time and efforts, we could well adopt the Boorowa model in our area. I know, from talking to him on the day and at other times, that Tablelands LHPA ranger Scott Schlunke and colleagues, would be keen to work with us on this.
Just a few more observations:
Boorowa is covered by the Lachlan LHPA while we are in the Tablelands LHPA district. In our district the forward looking LHPA runs short enjoyable training courses to accredit people to use 1080 and pindone for only $202. If you lived in Boorowa, you would pay $45 – cheap but still over double the cost.
11 February 2012: soil microbiology for beginners & antique farm tools & machinery
About 2 dozen members attended Arthur & Adrienne Bollom, with assistance from John Weatherstone, hosting of this informative morning discussion on what they are doing with compost tea spays. Arthur and John gave us some background on how and
why they are working to improve microbial life in their soils. While it
is possible to pay a great deal of money buying soil microbial
preparations and incubators. Arthur showed us and demonstrated his very moderately priced
The group then moved to the second venue, Tarcoola where lunch was had follwed by a tour of a little known local gem – a museum
of rare and vintage agricultural tools and machinery. Mr Brian Bembrick, the senior custodian and collector for this
museum, supported by joint custodian and son in law Eric Dowling, provided a fascinating insight to the many and varied collectables.
Graeme Hand Workshop
The Graeme Hand workshop, its date changed by the Lachlan CMA to prevent its clashing with our outing to Meriden, was well attended with JCLG members from three properties being among the participants. Graeme and his colleague, DPI agronomist Tony Cox, advocate holistic management principles which have land managers adopt strategies to achieve personal satisfaction, economic and environmental success. They stress the need to observe the health of your animals and to ensure pastures get sufficient time to recover between grazing events.
I am not going to attempt a summary of the presentations. Graeme was certainly an entertaining and knowledgeable presenter and, while not agreeing with everything he says, I thought there were a number of good ideas and techniques to take away. If you get a chance to go to one of his presentations I would recommend doing so.
Part of the session involved a short visit to Martin and Bernadette Clancy’s property Merrill where Martin has been applying holistic management principles for some time. The pastures there were certainly very impressive. It is worth noting that, while Graeme says his principles can be applied to any type of farm, it does seem that small to medium sized properties which breed their own stock would have to work much harder to apply them than a farmer who trades stock and hence has no compunction in selling at any time. Merrill is in this second category.
Perhaps it would be worthwhile for the LCMA to look at developing a Graeme Hand program tailored specifically for the typical traditional producers of this district.
Merriment and Marvels at Meriden
We had a most enjoyable afternoon at Norman and Margaret Hindley’s property Meriden. Just the right number of people and a perfect summer day. The highlights for me, in no special order, were:
It is always a pleasure to visit a well managed property and Meriden is certainly in this category with lots of ground cover and trees, well designed fencing, dams planned to ensure good water quality, bouncing healthy stock and the like. We saw a good variety of orchids, forbs and other wildflowers including a considerable number of slender sun orchids in flower!*
* Why is this so exciting? Slender sun orchids can seed without opening if that’s the way they feel about things. We have them around the house at our place and they have stubbornly remained closed for several years now. It was great to see them in flower.
Norman’s self designed and manufactured flood gates were a wonder to behold and would have sold in big numbers had he chosen to take a site at the Murrumbateman field day – we may try a small scale version of this design in an area where current fencing cannot cope with the infrequent but heavy deluges it gets. I learned a great deal from visitor Sandra about how to trap foxes successfully using a metal trap – and I intend putting my new mastery of fox trapping to good use soon. Ann Walmsley’s fruit cake was excellent. We went in a two vehicle safari around the farm, with most of us getting on to a tray top using special steps for old codgers, then sitting on covered hay bales Oklahoma hay ride style as our host drove us decorously about the property. This could be a great attraction should Meriden go in for eco tours.
All up it was a very good day. People came mainly for a social outing rather than as seekers of knowledge. But I think we all learned something. And it showed we should continue to have small social events like this from time to time – they are good value.
Mundoonan Reserve walk
An enjoyable and educational few hours were spent on this "being like on a Harry Butler tour" of the reserve 12 NOv.
Love Grass identity field day
27 November saw a good turn out of a couple of dozen concerned land carers came to hear and see Paul Brown (local weed inspector) identify African Love Grass and Chillian Needle Grass, both of which are appearing in our region. Paul gave some good up to the minute information on how these weeds are being controlled and how we can control them on our own properties.