Last week we were excited to finally meet up with a representative from Cowra land care head office and discuss our plans for Fox Hill Hollow.
My main concern prior to their visit (being a non-local who had only come to Australia as an adult) was that we had purchased land with little to no growing potential and were set to have an uphill battle to get anything done. I thought this because I remembered how brown and crispy the landscape became last summer and just how many jumping insects there were around – it felt like a plague of grasshoppers had arrived on a prickly moon-scape. And then there was the July snow that left many of my gum trees looking brown and ‘shocked’ and leading them to down huge limbs all over the place. Finally I was concerned at the potential damage that grazing sheep had done to the land. This parcel of land had been home to a number of the fluffy white things, animals that I’m not that keen on seeing in my ‘native’ forest land due to their earth compacting powers thanks to having a large, heavy body supported by tiny little hoofy feet.
But I need not have worried.
As I have shared with you on an earlier post Fox Hill Hollow is currently in bloom with Sun Dew, Milkmaids and Early Nancy carpeting much of the forest floor. But that is not all, we also have kangaroo grass, poa tussocks, Sharp Rush, Pin Rush, Bog Sedge and more. As we walked around the property it became clear to us (much to our relief) that Fox Hill Hollow was not in a bad way and even better than that it actually has heaps of potential. I have to say I was thrilled.
One of my plans for Fox Hill Hollow is to turn it into a venue to teach my Cosmetic Chemistry courses, a venue surrounded by native species – aromatic trees, native herbs, grasses, florals and more. Eventually I plan to plant a garden which might contain some non-local species but which have relevance to cosmetics – Aloe Vera, Comfrey, Calendula, Chamomile, Lavender etc – but the first priority (and main interest) for me is to re-wild the non-garden parts of Fox Hill Hollow so I’m thrilled that we are starting that process from a good place.
Our walk around the property did throw up some challenges for us though:
- Slight soil erosion at the dam from the heavy rains of this winter. The granite soil around our property is ‘explosive’ in as much as when it gets wet it loses its form and turns to slush that can easily be washed away down river. This early erosion can lead to large crevice formation over time and has to be managed by allowing water to run freely without building up velocity. Basically we need to avoid ‘damming’ and concentrate of ‘controlled and even flow’.
- The same can be said for the driveway where there are two or three patches where erosion could take hold if we don’t keep the natural water channels clear.
- Our frontage onto Milburn creek would also benefit from being kept clean and free-flowing. At present there are some tree’s that have fallen in and blocked part of the water flow. Moving them will be hard though as the area is accessible only by foot.
- The pine trees will have to go! OK so the pine trees we have in the woods are not too bad, they are spaced relatively evenly and are allowing for growth on the woodland floor but ideally, over time they will be replaced by gums and other native trees. One thing that can happen straight away though is the pulling out or chopping down of all of the baby pines that are springing up everywhere. Doing that ASAP will save time and energy later and make room for the first native planting!
- Fencing off our creek frontage to allow for better management and pest control (feral pigs are around in this area).
- Re-establishing a wattle community to the land as wattle is sadly lacking on our block.
- Weed management as appropriate.
There were more little things too but it was agreed that the top list of actions would be a great place to start and to get us moving closer to our goal of a beautifully diverse piece of land encompassing both wet and dry Sclerophyll forest.
Our land sits in a cross-over vegetation site managed by three landcare groups – Hovells Creek, Neville and the Mid Lachlan Groups and forms part of the K2W corridor for bird migration.
The K2W corridor is a migratory pathway for birds that spans from the East Coast of Australia through the Blue Mountains (where we usually live), our to Wyangala Dam (which is where Fox Hill Hollow is) and further inland to the ACT/ Victoria borders area. There is currently a big push by local Landcare groups to improve the connectivity of this corridor to make it easier for birds to make this inland migration. My hope is that Fox Hill Hollow becomes a small part in this large project.
The landscape connectivity will also encourage other native species back into the area including frogs, gliders, possums and who knows, maybe even koalas! It is definitely something worth working towards!
Overall our first meeting with Landcare was extremely positive and uplifting and although we now know how much work we have ahead of us, at least we know we are investing in land and a larger project that is worth it!
And as newcomers to Australia both Aub and I feel it would be awesome to be able to give something back to the country that has given us so much opportunity and space to grow. We want to leave Fox Hill Hollow in a better state than when we found it.
May the work commence!
PS: I have attached the Hovells Creek Landcare Action Plan here as it makes for interesting reading. We are planning to do our best to be active and positive ‘absentee’ land owners for the time that we fit that criteria.