Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Remediation and Other Aspirations

Posted on 19 May, 2016 by Connecting Country

The recent Sutton Grange Landcare newsletter (May 2016 edition) featured an inspiring article by Pam and Grant Workman on their Connecting Country project. Their stunning property on the side of Mount Alexander forms an important part of our Mount Alexander to Metcalfe Link project, the first stage of which was funded through the state government’s Communities for Nature program in 2015.  Thanks to Grant and Pam for allowing us to share their story.

The direct seeding undertaken at the Workman's property.

The direct seeding undertaken at the Workman’s property.

As two townies who came to the country Pam and I took a while to acclimatise to our new environment. Living on anything beyond a suburban block was completely new to me although Pam had some childhood experiences of living in smaller rural communities.

What to do with 22 ha of rolling, if not steep land, subject to all the climatic vagaries of the Faraday Sutton Grange area. One of our sons from his strong interest in terra-culture systems developed a master management plan which in theory looked magnificent. Unsurprisingly it required more energy, time, water and reticulation infrastructure than we had available.

Enter ‘Connecting Country’. Another participant and community member, Natalie McCarthy extolled the virtues of this program at a recent Landcare meeting noting the excellent administration of the program and the responsive staff: we concur with all such affirmations. The program allowed us to isolate stock from our most fragile hill areas, direct seed more land than we would have believed possible, plant 750-800 trees and larger shrubs, and provide for weed and rabbit control.

So what had happened since we got underway in mid-2015? The wind blew, the rain failed to fall, the rabbits were endemic (migrating from adjoining land faster than we could control them), our weed control efforts while effective on our land, faced the onslaught of uncontrolled adjoining properties including the regional forest and we experienced record high numbers of kangaroos running through and over everything in their path. Sounds disastrous. And on the face of it, it was.  We lost nearly every planted tree and shrub being left with milk cartons strewn everywhere with only the odd bamboo stick to indicate where we had once planted.

Pam and Grant have found it pays to be patience when it comes to direct seeding.

Pam and Grant have found it pays to be patient when it comes to seeing direct seeding results.

The good news that it’s not all bad news!  We have learned a lot from observing how our particular situation responds to our efforts.  The direct seeding, after initially appearing to be a dead loss is coming to life like a giant awakening. We suspect that over the coming 2-3 years, even with modest rainfall we will have a significant cover from this process providing habitat for small birds and having a major erosion mitigation strategy in place.

What have we concluded from all of this in our circumstance on our specific block?  Big tick for the Connecting Country program and direct seeding. Planting trees and larger shrubs we think requires exclusion zones (roos, rabbits, weeds), and be no bigger than we can look after with our limited resources in any one year. Each successive year we should be able to create a new zone and go again. We also think that before embarking on such a venture it would have been really helpful to discuss what we planned to do with neighbours and try and include them in the program, if possible, but at the very least have them on board so that weed and rabbit control issues can be bipartisan particularly neared shared borders.

Most of this will be no surprise to those of you who have been custodians of the land in this area for a long time. Us newbies are still getting out heads around it and hopefully learning valuable lessons as we attempt to remediate our land.

Grant and Pam Workman

2 responses to “Remediation and Other Aspirations”

  1. I love this article, it has reinforced everything I have been learning about Conservation and Land Management at TAFE this year, especially the importance of integrated pest management and working with your neighbours (if possible). The smaller fenced/exclusion zones for future plantings sounds like a great idea. I look forward to hearing how it goes!

  2. Geraldine Harris says:

    Thanks Grant and Pam.
    Really appreciate you sharing your experience. And agree that the best option might be use of manageable sized exclusion areas over successive years.

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