Walking around the Rock Farm this week, I have been struck by how similar to January the weather is. Dry grass crackles underfoot, and in many areas the earth is dry and hard. Hot dry days have us monitoring the Fires Near Me app, with a guard zone set 50km around the property. We have been watering newly planted fruit trees in the garden in a desperate struggle to keep them alive, but I also knew I needed to check on some of the trees we had planted in the paddock.
We planted some Hakea and Yellow Box trees along some rip lines in early August. The rip lines hold some extra moisture and we thought would be a good place to pant the trees.
After planting the seedlings, we watered them a few times to get them going. It was good pre-season maintenance for our portable water tank, even if it looked a bit like a moonscape at the time. A small shower of rain a couple of weeks ago had turned the grass in the rip lines green, and encouraged the weeds to grow. Sadly it wasn’t all good news.
With occasional watering, the Hakea or Needle bush have responded well. They are optimised for Australian conditions, and are naturally unappealing to grazing stock such as cattle or kangaroos. When they grow, they provide habitat for many of the native birds that have shifted into living in the weed Sweet Briar. Once we get these Hakea established, we will re-double our efforts to remove the Sweet Briar.
Unfortunately the Yellow Box has not fared so well. It would seem a hare has taken to all the plants not in guards, and chopped them off a few inches above the ground. A couple of the plants had clean cuts, with some buds below the cut, so we installed a guard and gave them a good water. Time will tell if we have saved these trees. The trees in guards were alive – but only just, and we hope a couple of good soaks will pull them through.
The rip lines have broadly been a success. I had spent a fair amount of time in autumn and winter dragging an old ripper along contours: (See https://rockfarming.com/2019/03/20/ripping-lines-for-soil-health/ ). It was an experiment to see if the lines would allow water to penetrate the subsoil, and to aerate the soil.
The change on the rocky slopes is in a word remarkable.
The rip lines are clearly visible by their lines of green growing grass. Between the rip lines, the grass is struggling to stay alive and the clover has all but turned up its toes. With rain forecast for tomorrow, I hope that every drop that falls makes its way into the ground. This is especially the case for short sharp summer thunderstorm cloud bursts that see a large amount of water fall quickly and run off before it soaks into the ground. This might not be ideal for our dam that is getting lower and lower, but the grass is what the cattle and sheep need to eat.
It is great to see the boys and girls are in good health and condition. Our calves and lambs continue to grow and are all nice and quiet. The lambs are responding well to living near the house and are starting to come up to me when I appear with a bucket.
It might already feel like summer, but we are really pleased with some of the progress we have made in keeping the grass growing for a little longer on the Rock Farm.