Secrets of a happy life revealed and it was here on the farm all along

“If your New Year resolution is to be happier, make your priorities fruit, nature, sun and sleep.”

This simple prescription for a happy life stems from Otago University research reported in the NZ Herald this morning.  Sounds a lot like farm life, doesn’t it?

From all of us here on the farm, have a wonderful 2015!

Before we say goodbye to 2014 though, I’d like to pay tribute to our wonderful fellow Landcarer, Margaret Ferguson, who helped us plant trees this summer and tragically lost her life in a farm accident this month. I still can’t believe this magnificent lady is gone but she would be delighted to see how well our trees have already grown.

The trees arrived in September

The trees arrived in September

 

The grass was sprayed to give the plants a head start

The grass was sprayed to give the plants a head start

 

We finished planting in the first week of October

We finished planting in the first week of October

 

Giving the trees a helping hand when it got dry was noisy work

Giving the trees a helping hand when it got dry was noisy work

 

Look how much they've already grown: the same trees on Boxing Day 2014

Look how much they’ve already grown: the same trees on Boxing Day 2014

 

RIP Margaret. We miss you.

RIP Margaret Ferguson: a passionate fellow Landcarer (Photo courtesy of Kaye Proudley)

RIP Margaret Ferguson: a passionate fellow Landcarer (Photo courtesy of Kaye Proudley)

 

Painful fall as Ball Face ousted as king of the bulls

The farm’s most aggressive bull has reigned for about two years as no other bull, even those who stood several inches taller, were as mean as Ball Face.

Wayne put him in the bull paddock last night. This morning Ball Face was missing. We discovered snapped wires along the laneway and figured the grader had clipped the fence, shorting out the power, so after the afternoon rounding up, it fell to me and the kids to restore the circuit and find the errant king while Wayne milked.

I fixed the laneway and found Ball Face and Fernando in the newly planted-out wetland. Aargh! Not my precious revegetation!!! The pair of them had left a trail of sagging wires and were busily roughing up some melaleucas. Can you spot them?

BullsInWetland

I sallied forth armed with a pigtail post and a long piece of poly pipe, leaving strict instructions for Zoe to stay on top of the Bobcat. I tried to look big and summoned my growliest voice. Magically, the two of them hopped out quite obediently. All that was left was to strain the three wires and turn the fence back on. Until this.

BallFaceChase

No one bull may have been game to take Ball Face on but a pack of them wanted him dead. Shrieking but quick, Zoe snapped this pic as the group charged towards us and I scrambled back onto the Bobcat. They thundered right around us and pursued Ball Face, literally pushing him through the fence (again) a hundred metres further up the paddock.

The fence strainer got a workout and then it was off, again, with pigtail post and poly pipe to remove Ball Face from his refuge. The gang stayed close to the fence and it was painfully obvious they would give him the medicine all over again, so I put him on the far side of the wetland, nine strands of hotwire away.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a king deposed by a gang. Normally, it happens when an upstart matures, challenging the patriarch to a one-on-one duel with the rest watching. But then, Ball Face is something extraordinary. Maybe it really is time for him to go.

Finding pleasure in the small stuff

Gully reflections

Smile at the small stuff

The silver lining to the devastation of the flood is that I’m enjoying some of the farm’s special secret spots. The relentless hunt for shorts in the fence bring me to lovely quiet places like this where time seems to stand still and there is no mobile reception.

I’ve been impressed to see how well the trees planted last summer with the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group fellows have not only coped but thrived in the wet conditions.

9 month old trees

Only nine months after planting, these trees are firing on all cylinders

Even trees that I gave up for dead are emerging. The wetland was planted out with 800 blackwoods, melaleucas and swamp gums two years ago. The hardy melaleucas are staging a comeback after months of at least partial submersion!

New trees in the wetland

Swamp paperbarks emerge from the morass

The favoured maxim might be “don’t sweat the small stuff” but I must admit to savouring the small stuff, especially when it’s such an important part of the big picture.

Caring for Our Country requires a team effort

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a country to take care of its land.

Our family has set a target of planting at least 1000 trees on our dairy farm every year but we’ve only been able to do it with a lot of help.

  • Greening Australia helped me develop a whole farm plan and funded the refencing of 11ha of remnant vegetation plus 800 trees that our friends helped us to plant.
  • Our local Landcare group provided a good chunk of the funding for fencing off and revegetating a wetland that volunteers from the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group came down from the city and planted with us.
  • The West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority funded kilometres of fencing and thousands of trees along the gully and anabranch, plus connecting wildlife corridors.
  • Again, the volunteers from the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group came and planted 1200 trees for us last year.
  • The Wellington Shire Council funded the planting of trees along the roadside bounding our farm a year ago and has funded more work in the wetland this year.

We are so, so grateful for all this help. Revegetation is an expensive affair that involves a lot of planning and hard yakka. It’s so worthwhile! This is one of the trees planted by Bruce, Chris and David of the VMLG last October.

Six month old tree

The trees will provide wildlife habitats, help to keep the water table healthy, protect our rivers and the ocean and make a small contribution to reducing carbon pollution. They will also make our cows more comfortable in unpleasant weather and enhance the beauty of our landscapes.

With all this in mind, it was a relief to hear that the doomsayers’ predictions of funding cuts to the chief national environmental program, Caring for Our Country, that helps to fund all this work failed to materialise in the federal budget. There are unwelcome cuts (on top of previous cuts) but it is still here.

Ravenous kangaroos don’t eat wattles

A couple of years ago, we renewed the fencing around 11 hectares of remnant forest on the farm with the help of Greening Australia so we could exclude the stock from this high-value goanna habitat.

Paddock flanked by forest

Two blocks of native forest are protected on the farm

Unfortunately, the western sides of the two bush blocks have been impacted by the wind so we moved the fence westwards and friends helped us plant about 800 trees to reinvigorate this section. The kangaroos and wallabies ate almost every tree. Almost. It seems they have a distaste for wattles, which are the only specimens that survived the onslaught.

Wattles survived grazing by kangaroos

Wattles must taste yukky to kangaroos

If you’ve had any experience protecting seedlings from macropods, please share!

People who drive conservation by walking the talk

Three men drove up to five hours (each way) to get to our farm and then worked tirelessly all day for nothing except the sense of satisfaction that comes with doing something good.

David, Chris and Bruce are members of the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group, which is unique because rather than being a collective of environmentally-aware landholders keen to make their properties more sustainable, this is a group of environmentally-aware volunteers who plant tens of thousands of trees all over the state.

As they explain on the group website, VMLG members are “people passionate about land care through responsible 4WD use, we are a non-profit association tightly affiliated with Landcare Australia and 4WD Victoria”.

Last year, the VMLG helped us plant 800 trees and we were wrapt that they could come again this year to add 1200 more. Here they are at the start of the day, ready to get stuck into planting.

Victorian Mobile Landcare Group volunteers

Victorian Mobile Landcare Group volunteers: Bruce, Chris and David (L-R)

Bruce, Chris and David soldiered on in the rain (“just one more tray,” eh Chris?), stopping only for an hour-long BBQ lunch. I was proud to have Zoe working alongside these fellows who do so much more than talk about their commitment to the environment.

Bruce shows Zoe how to plant trees

Bruce shows Zoe how to plant trees

At the end of the day, we had created two wildlife corridors and shelter for the cows – a great outcome for the environment, our animals and the landscape. One tree was set aside for Zoe and ceremonially planted in the garden to remind us of the day.

Members of the VMLG and Zoe with a ceremonial tree

Members of the VMLG (David, Bruce and Chris) and Zoe with a ceremonial tree

Thanks guys. We couldn’t have got this done without your help. Thanks also to the West Gippsland Catchment Authority for spraying and 800 metres of fencing and to the Yarram Yarram Landcare Network for the donation of 400 trees.