June at the Station

I love a sunburnt country

Posted by Clare Cannon on June 28, 2016

They say that a farmer is never happy: it is either too dry, too wet, too hot, too cold, and the list goes on.

We saw a terribly dry Autumn at the Station, and then the rain came and came and came. Whilst it is wonderful to see all the emerald green grass, the creeks running fast, and the lake full, the cold and the wet has been hard on the animals.

Woomargama - Autumn (20th March)

Woomargama - Winter (5th June)

Throughout Summer and Autumn, the Shaun was in the tractor constantly feeding out from the silage pits. This is a time consuming process which means other jobs get left. At the sound of the tractor, or the truck, the sheep and cattle come running waiting for that wonderful sour "perfume" of the silage. The lambs and the ewes in lamb also got the added bonus of sheep nuts to tide them over till the rain came.

And then came the rain, and more rain, and the silage pit was closed. From dry stubble, the stock then moved almost overnight to the equivalent of constant kale smoothies. Out comes the tractor again, this time with hay to help them digest all that green. This was no measured Autumn Break, but constant leaden skies with cold rain.

Interestingly, we lost three eucalypts in a week. In Summer, I am always saying "don't park under the gum tree," it may drop. All of us brought up with the classic tale "Seven Little Australians" know what could happen. But it was the wet which felled them. Outside the back gate of the Homestead, was a yellow box which had to be 300 years old. A few years ago, the pest man, on the way to spray the kitchen table for bora, spotted white ants at the base of this tree. He sprayed it, but I think we were 15 years too late. It turned out the base was rotten, and one wet evening it sheared off at the base. Luckily no one was underneath, but we mourn its grandeur.

After many years of discussions and mapping with Sam Niedra and Nigel Jones at the Nature Conservation Trust, and after the Bio Blitz at the Station nearly two years ago, we have signed a Covenant Agreement with the Nature Conservation Trust to put 600 ha of our back woodland country under covenant. When the Hume Highway bypassed Woomargama Village, the same amount of land that the bypass took was deemed to go under covenant. Woomargama Station, which adjoins the Woomargama National Park at its south east corner, has rare stands of box woodland, of which only 3.5% is remaining in Southern Australia. This woodland country has very different species than its neighbouring forest, and an extraordinary diversity of bird life. This country remains woodland and has not reverted to forest as, per the Covenant Agreement, it is grazed six months of the year, mainly by our cattle and, at times, our sheep. This grazing replicates the traditional cool burning which the local aboriginal population used to undertake pre European settlement.

Woomargama Station is proud to partner with the Nature Conservation Trust to protect this endangered woodland biodiversity and, whilst it might be our least productive farming country it will, over the years, become the "Jewel in the Crown" of our landscapes.

At the end of May, the NCT hosted Covenant Landholders to a walk around the Woomargama Woodland, billy tea and artisan bread from a local baker. It was wonderful to meet other people who are sharing the same values, and to exchange ideas.

May is traditionally wool sales time at the Station. This year we branded our wool at the Fox and Lillie sales in Melbourne with our Covenant label stating that, from time to time, the sheep which produced the wool were grazed on covenanted woodland under the guidance of the NCT. With a bit of Nick's magic, and our new rams from Bogo Station in Yass, we were able to produce wool which was highly sought after by our buyers, many of whom were asking Bruno, our wool broker, about the property, their interest being piqued by the label. Certainly, the provenance of our clothing is now becoming more talked about as it has been for some time in the quality end of the food market.

Let's hope now for some sunny skies. This rain is just too much of a good thing!