Money may not grow on trees but I’m beginning to see that grass just might.
Our most productive pastures in summer are those that are sheltered on three sides by thick stands of willows. These are clapped out old ryegrass species but they outperform much newer pastures. I think that mostly it comes down to the relief the trees provide from those roasting NW winds. The cows also love the deep shade under the willows’ spreading branches, which must minimise heat stress. In other words, they create a more temperate micro-climate.
But willows are not universally loved, especially if you’re a native fish. Our farm draws water for cows and to clean the dairy machinery from the Albert River, so it is in our interests to protect the river’s health. I’m trying to see those shady willow windbreaks as “infestations” but without enough alternative shade, tearing them out is not a consideration.
So what are we doing? Planting hundreds and hundreds of native trees each year. If I had enough funding, I’d plant thousands every year! By doing this, we’re also creating wildlife corridors linking our gorgeous Land For Wildlife dam (which stretches over 8 acres) with two waterways and a wetland.
I’m so impatient. I can visualise the beauty of the farm in 20 years’ time, the cool oases of shade and the relief from the howling SW winter weather that these trees will bring. If the scientists are right, those refuges are going to be even more valuable as our climate becomes increasingly variable. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to celebrate my 60th birthday in the summer of 2030 and Zoe’s 18th in the winter of 2024 in a very different and much more sheltered landscape to the one we enjoy now.