From soggy paddock to paradise

Can you spot two black swans and a flock of wood ducks and moorhens?

Can you spot two black swans and a flock of wood ducks and moorhens?

Stretching a temporary fence across an adjacent paddock in the warm winter sun, I was captivated by the scene through the tussocks. Two black swans were gliding across the water, a mob of moorhens were stretching their long orange legs, while a dozen or so wood ducks gathered a little way off.

It wasn’t always this way. This is, or was, paddock 17.  One of the lowest parts of the farm, paddock 17 was often under water and when we investigated the soil, we found it was a potential acid sulphate soil (PASS) with high levels of salinity. The safest thing to do was leave it alone, so we fenced it off and, one November, planted 800 moisture-loving plants with the help of a Landcare grant and the hard work of the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group volunteers.

The next two seasons were the wettest on record and I thought we’d lost the lot. We moved the fence out further and the Wellington Shire offered some extra money to replant the margins. Well, it’s all taken off – even some of the first plantings I’d given up on – and we now can boast a magical on-farm ephemeral wetland habitat.

Put yourself in the paddock with me for a few seconds and listen to this:

 

For our children

Have you seen this?

Yes, it’s by Unilever. Yes, you’re entitled to be cynical and yes, I love it.

The global manufacturer and ice-cream maker has just accredited Australian dairy production as meeting its Sustainable Agriculture Code – a huge accomplishment, which is also a world first. Of course it doesn’t mean Australian dairying is perfect and Dairy Australia has published a Sustainability Framework that will nudge us all to do better.

Here on the farm, our family does a bite-sized project for the environment every year. We have:

When I say “our family”, I have to stress that we haven’t been able to do all this without help. Grants from Landcare, Greening Australia and the Wellington Shire, work by the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, together with the hard yakka of volunteers from the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group and some of our friends have made the tree planting possible.

It just goes to show what we can do when everyone pulls together.

Goanna

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.