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

The Yarnauwi Farm Annual Report 2015

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You can view a printable version of this Annual Report here.

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We’re now three years into the Yarnauwi project. With all of our major water and fencing infrastructure in place, 2015 was a year of consolidating and refining our planting and grazing systems, and continuing to restore habitat while also developing income streams. Once again, we thank you for your support this year, whether that’s been planting trees, purchasing meat, hauling junk, offering advice or just being generally encouraging! We feel enormously privileged to have such a supportive community of family, friends and neighbours contributing to the restoration and development of this patch of ground. Continue reading

A new (moveable) sheep shelter

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The new A-Frame moveable sheep shelter, with its skillion-roofed predecessors in the background.

We’ve tried to structure our farm year so that summer is a time of dormancy, maintaining the property, but avoiding too many big jobs in the heat. With an historic heatwave across southeastern Australia, and four consecutive days over 40 degrees for South Australia, we thought we’d make an exception to construct another shelter for our long-suffering sheep.

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The triangular-prism rises, with gully tin in the foreground.

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Local Adventures: Kalamunda Native Forest Reserve

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Looking towards Yankalilla Hill and The Gorge, Normanville from the northeastern corner of Kalamunda Native Forestry Reserve. The radio masts of Yankalilla Hill (the cliffs above Lady Bay) are just visible on the left of the photograph.

We pulled in at gate MH18, 50 metres from the summit of Mount Hayfield at the northern end of Mount Hayfield Road (off Springs Road, from Range Road). Through the pine plantations we could see flashes of sky and the brown paddocks stretching off to the north. It’s up in the highlands here, and where it’s not grazing land or forestry plantations, there’s still patches of native forest, the most significant of which is the Kalamunda Native Forest Reserve, part of the Second Valley Forest complex.

Continuing our research into the ecology of the Fleurieu, we’ve been looking for examples of what our own landscape might have looked like before clearing to help guide our regeneration efforts. Of the three local forest reserves, Kalamunda seemed like a good fit. Perched above Yankalilla, Kalamunda is a fragment of the kind of woodlands which were present across the Fleurieu.

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Walking through the pines

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The time of plans and projects

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Grain fields at Aldinga, and drying hills

It seems like summer comes sooner and sooner. Winter was short, and so dry that the dam never progressed beyond a puddle, then the sun was back, the grass grew for a moment then was baked dry again by an early heatwave. The northern faces of the hills turned a bleached gold, then quickly the green haze on the south sides followed. And we’re back, heading into the hot season again, settling into a holding pattern of heat and dormancy until the opening rains.

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North faces baked dry in the first heat

Tolstoy apparently called spring “the time of plans and projects”. Now a year into our sheep project, we’ve begun tweaking our grazing practices in an effort to manage our pasture more effectively. We’ve increased our flock size through both breeding and the acquisition of some hardy, desert-adapted damara sheep, brought in from a dusty paddock outside Nuriootpa to replace the ageing and increasingly delicate Wiltshire Horn matriarchs. The existing flock hasn’t exactly embraced the new arrivals, there’s plenty of bleating and foot-stomping. You could cut the tension with a knife when we pour out the sheep nuts. Among the damaras is Manchego, our new ram. Looking at Pecorino’s legacy, it’s clear he has big hooves to fill.

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