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“Tangents in the landscape” (detail), 2014, mixed media installation, fencing wire, ratchet straps and Holden Rodeo ute

A day spent hauling junk out of gullies can put you in a philosophical mood. When we first purchased this property, we were drawn to the erosion gullies filled with generations of farm rubbish with a kind-of masochistic fascination. After a year of hauling, stacking and shunting loads to the dump or recycling depot, today we loaded up our ute with the final bundles of unruly and ancient fencing wire.

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Bye-bye horror horse!

The most recent round of dump trips has also been momentous in that it finally marks the banishment of a terrifying, rusted and threadbare rocking horse from the property. The horror horse, wedged between rusted 44-gallon drums stuffed with irrigation pipe and topped with a decaying mattress, formed one in a series of mobile art installations mounted on the back of the ute, displayed for a brief, one-time-only journey between our block and the Yankalilla dump. A number of more conceptual, minimalist pieces followed shortly after, composed of snarls of fencing wire of assorted vintage.

IMG_3565In terms of area, we’ve now cleared about 70 percent of the debris, leaving 4 out of 5 gullies to begin to return to being healthy creeks. The rubbish that remains is a rich vein of rural detritis located in the heart of what we affectionately call “The Badlands”. Its been an unexpectedly satisfying process, not just because of the gradual transformation of neglected creeks, but also for our very hands-on insight into the archaeology of the farm (see our curated collection of farm junk for regularly updated examples).

IMG_3572I feel like we’ve begun to develop a greater understanding of the generations that have worked this land before us, not least because there’s an intimacy to going through other people’s rubbish. Perhaps oddly, I don’t harbour any resentment towards those who tossed their waste into the gullies. As we’ve been repeatedly told, “that was what you did back then” (or even quite recently, as we’ve found), with “wire in the wash” (placing unwanted fencing wire in erosion gullies) being one local approach to erosion control widespread enough to earn its own alliterated name. Our attempts to restore this small patch of ground is really just a little tangent in the vast story of this particular landscape.

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