Good advice

  • Posted on: 9 May 2024
  • By: ibuchanan

A nudge here, a hint there, and suddenly we have a new sense of direction.

A couple of months ago someone I went to secondary school with posted a photo of a local bird in a Facebook bird-spotter's group. I contacted him, they came for lunch, and we caught up. First time face to face in more than 30 years!

They have moved locally, from interstate, and bought a small farm that they are converting to a bird sanctuary by planting out native plants that are habitat for local birds. I was impressed, and inspired by what they are doing.

Co-incidentally, Landcare were offering a small, free, consultancy to local farms. we signed up. They did a map of the place, but then spent some time with us listening to our description of what we are trying to do on this farm. And then offering suggestions.

It was fantastic.

I had not heard of the concept of an insectary. An insectary is a haven for specific insects, providing either habitat for breeding or eating. We will be implementing some insect havens within our olive grove for predator insects like Lacewing and Ladybugs, who happily consume Lace Bug. Sally from Landcare gave us information on the types of plants that were suitable, and where we could get them. The pots are here now, waiting for some wet weather before we start planting.

We discussed the riverfront. We have a couple of hundred metres of Ovens River frontage. Its predominantly native plants along our stretch, but up and down river its not so well looked after, and every winter when the river floods we get new weeds brought in on the floodwaters. Some of the plants we don't want are honeysuckle, privet, mint, banana passionfruit, hawthorn and blackberries....metres of blackberry patches. I am dealing with the blackberries in our main paddocks, but have avoided doing any spraying along the riverfront.

Sally from Landcare had some suggested spraying contractors who could safely deal with the riverfront. We got them in and they have done an astonishing job. They have successfully eliminated almost all of the problem plants. What didn't work was the large privet trees...they are still going strong, but the hundreds of privet seedlings are all dead. I'm going to cut the big trees down with a chainsaw and poison them with a drilled inoculation. I have no doubt we will need to do this again next year, but I am pleased with how well its gone so far.

And, as we have discussed previously, we have seriously started looking at reforming the ruined goose paddock and the remnant dry-dredging pit. The river flats along the Ovens were dredged for gold last century. When it all finished the miners up and left, and did none of the remediation they were supposed to do. A hundred years later it is still ruined farmland, mostly stones, no topsoil. Most places around us have at least one dredgehole. We have two, one of them is a seasonal goose pond. Its fills over winter and dries out over spring to summer. Usually its a claypan by February.

Its a tough location....around the lake its mostly mining spoil, so rocks and little soil, and every couple of years it overfills and drowns everything on the edge. One side is a steep, collapsing steep wall. Every tear it erodes a bit more. Using the same nursery, we now have a lot of new seedlings, all native, that might be able to survive this unfriendly spot. The ground is set like concrete at the moment, given we've had no rain for quite some time.

All of this is quite a lot of work, and it will take some time to get it all in place. But I am pretty enthusiastic about it, and feel like we have a better defined idea of what we are doing with this farm.

There are other projects underway, that have been progressing for a couple of years now. The Far Paddock was stripped of most of its topsoil, sold off for a pittance, leaving a cratered ruin. For the last nine years I have been slowly filling it with whatever green "waste" I can collect for free. At the start it seemed like a fool's errand, but all of a sudden we are getting somewhere. We are the only ones who remember how bad it was, so when I show it to people now they think "Ah, its not that bad...a few holes here and there." But I know, and I am thrilled with how its going.

The Tree Paddock was a stony wasteland. Again this winter I will be planting more in there, but its now an established forest.

And finally, the blackberries in the main olive paddock.....I have quite a bit of progress to report there, but I will do that as a separate topic.