Saturday, April 28, 2012


Today, after a breakfast of raisin toast and Earl Grey tea, the kids and I headed off to Candelo for a day of learning. One of the many great things about living in an at-least-partially-forward-thinking rural area is that there are heaps of opportunities for learning about innovative ways to manage your land. We've only been here 6 months, but I already feel like I've been exposed to so many great ideas, and have met so many really inspiring people who are all working towards making their properties more than just 'sustainable' or 'organic' - they're actually working towards making them regenerative. Today's field day, 'Grasses and Grazing - Managing Pastures for Better Outcomes' was held at a farm out at Candelo, which is fighting the good fight against one of our resident noxious weeds - African Love Grass.
Farming-types. Love grass to the left
(No, I did not photo-shop that fluffy white cloud)

Luckily, we don't have any of this at our place, but it was awesome to hear about the ways people are utilising native grasses and combinations of slashing and animal-management to eradicate and control the weeds they have on their properties.

I was particularly interested in anything to do with managing native pastures and weeds through the use of animals such as goats and sheep, since this is something we're looking to get going at our place, both to service our own lamb-y meat needs, and also the demands of the local Muslim population, who are keen on something like a pick-your-own berry farm, but of the halal goat-meat variety. Pearly's already devising outrageous lamb dishes, like last night's hum-dinger, Pearl's SCPA Lamb Stew (recipe coming soon!!!).
Some goats hard at work in the love grass
But of course it's not just about having a bunch of ruminants roaming the acres eating whatever they feel like. We have some awesome regeneration happening in the form of self-sown acacias and eucalypts and angophoras: these will all need to be fenced. And then there are the native grasses. Microlaena stipioides (weeping meadow grass),  Bothriochloa macra (Red grass) and Themeda australis (Kangaroo grass) are the main ones at our place, interspersed with a fair bit of kikuyu (boo! hiss!). This is the bit where it gets tricky, because you need to manage your animals so that they only eat when the weedy species are setting seed, and the good stuff is strong enough to withstand extensive chowing. Even more complicated, this changes throughout the seasons, so you have to be pretty much on top of your game, if you want to achieve your desired outcomes. After seeing the results at the farm today, though, I'm feeling up for the challenge.
Our main weed issue is fleabane, a dreadful, hideously ugly plant with (alas) wind-borne seeds. When they're big (think about 2 metres high) nothing eats them, but there's a possibility that goats and sheep might eat them when they're little. I reckon it's worth a go.
I grew up with goats, so was always pretty keen on getting some to be our lawn-mowers, but now I know even more about them, I'm even more convinced that they are the way to go. For example: Did you know that the goat's rumen (first stomach) operates at a higher temperature than other animals', so weed seeds are sterilised and don't sprout from the goat poo???? I thought this was an excellent piece of information... And I also learned that, even though GOAT stands for Got Out Again Today, a solar-electric moveable mesh fence will keep them contained. This is what's used by the dudes who run Rent-a-Ruminant. I figure they'd know, but I'm also open to tethering ours, depending on the number of goats and the area that needs work. I'll tell you one thing though - our goats are probably not going to have flash houses like this little cutie, though I reckon I could get into sewing goat-coats.
But of course this is all a ways down the track, and at this point we're pretty much focused on getting our little house to lock-up and moving out of our (enormous) rental place.

The issue of getting our Little Strawbale finished was hammered home to me this afternoon when I noticed quite a lot of smoke coming from the western hills, right in the vicinity of our place. I do have a dreadful sense of direction though, so wasn't super-concerned at first. But as we drove closer, I realised "Hey - that really is near our place". We have been regaled quite a few times with the delightful story of a strawbale house at Cobargo that was burned down by arsonists. Strawbale houses, when rendered, are pretty much more fire-proof than any other building material. But when they contain exposed straw (like ours) they're pretty vulnerable. By the time we turned into Peak Hill Road I was absolutely convinced it was our place on fire, and broke into horrible sobs, imagining having to walk into the cafe and tell Pearl that our dream was over. But then we crested the hill and I realised, with immense relief, that the smoke was actually coming from our neighbour's burn-pile, not 200 metres from our little house. Obviously, those moments were horrendous, and really hammered home for me the fact that we need to get the joint rendered. NOW. I slapped on 2 barrow-fulls then and there, while Olive stripped naked, paraded in the sun and caked herself in clay and Oscar slept in the car, clutching a sausage he'd picked up at the field day. Tomorrow, more of the same. I don't want to rest til all our bales are safe!
On the pre-bed reading list tonight? Managing Native Pastures for Agriculture and Conservation. Oooohhhh....

1 comment:

  1. I am totally amazed and inspire by your lovely family and beautiful dream which is becoming reality. All those trees, blue skies and lovely horizons. Wishing you luck and love. xx