Summer So Far
Here's another blog posted a little late - Dad wrote this one back at the end of January.
Better late than never, but hopefully this signals a return to business as usual.
What a delightfully cool season we are enjoying. The thermometer under our verandah has only reached 30° once and that was back on the 30th of November. It means the grass has stayed green in the valleys, especially where it has been grazed or mown. When the abundant growth eventually hays off completely there will be "grass the burn". Hopefully the rain continues under the influence of La Nina and the grass will not be fully cured til next summer. There will be time to reduce the fuel load with intensive grazing, more tractor mulching, and some cool burning. We are blessed to have a resident indigenous fire researcher. I am hoping she will be able to guide us on our firestick farming journey. Millpost has not had much fire in the past century, and it will be interesting to see if cool burning brings dormant seed to life. The combination of long recovery periods between grazes and high rainfall over the past year has certainly seen some rare plants spring up, including lots of native legumes like glycine (below right) and desmodium which is very exciting.
The abundant pasture growth includes less desirable species like tall spear grass (Austrostipa bigeniculata). It is less palatable, and as the name suggests, has a sharp seed that can pierce the skin of the sheep. Ideally we would have had the lambs shorn by now, shearing reduces the impact of the skin penetrating seeds. We are having to wait for the shearers. There is a shortage of shearers Australia-wide. Young people are not taking it on as a career. In addition, Covid has prevented the hundreds of New Zealand shearers who usually come from travelling to Australia this season. Some graziers, desperate to get their sheep shorn are offering $4.50 per head, well above the $3.20 award rate. Our vegetable gardens (below) are benefiting from the cool conditions. The tomatoes may be slow but we have a splendid harvest of garlic and onions hanging under cover. Peas, potatoes, carrots, beetroot, rhubarb, and lettuce have all done well.
The fruit trees are having a good year too. I was able to beat the parrots and cockatoos to some plums and make plum sauce. The family has netted our Gravenstein, Granny Smith, and a quality apple seedling. The little covered orchard/chook run is yielding a few delicious mulberries and blueberries. Out in the paddocks various deciduous trees are bursting forth above their pink guards (below). We have identified more shade as an important adaptation to global warming.
I hope I live to see another summer as bountiful as this one, but I wouldn't bet on it.
David Watson - January 2021