Messy Paddocks

Messy fallen logs

Messy fallen logs

A couple of months ago we had some lovely visitors to the farm. We took them on a bit of a tour and they mentioned the large amount of fallen timber in our paddocks. “Plenty of firewood here - enough for a lifetime, how come there is so much wood in the paddocks”, they asked.

I said that the fallen logs were a result of tree ring barking that had taken place many years before we bought the property in an attempt to clear the paddocks. On most farms these cleared trees are pushed together in a pile and burned. The previous owners didn’t do this for some reason and we have made a conscious decision not to for habitat reasons, besides which most are decaying already and not really any good for firewood.

I must admit I was a bit vague on the details of wanting to retain the wood for ‘habitat reasons’, I felt a little like I was faking it! I had read that it was desirable to keep fallen wood in the paddock, but really couldn’t add any detail. It made me go and check! I consulted these two fabulous books.

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According to What Makes a Farm Good for Wildlife?, fallen logs are being increasingly recognized for a wide range of ecological roles. These include:

  • storing large amounts of carbon

  • storing large amounts of nutrients which are gradually returned to the soil

  • trapping leaf litter and holding up soil

  • increasing infiltration and retention of water in the soil

  • providing places for plants and fungi to germinate

  • providing foraging, breeding and sheltering spots for many kinds of animals (invertebrates, frogs, reptiles and animals and birds)

  • creating basking sites for reptiles and perching spots for birds

  • providing shelter for livestock, especially lambs

Cracking list isn’t it? Indeed we’ve seen several of these points above in action. Wombats seem to use fallen hollow logs quite a lot to hide - a bit like their burrows. Some birds like Hooded Robins regularly use fallen logs as hunting perches - high enough off the ground to see pray but not too high for quick pouncing!

On cold winter days ewes often leave their lambs on the sheltered side of fallen logs while they go off to graze. And our sheep regularly use fallen logs as scratching posts - sure saves pressure on our fences!

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I took a look at Wildlife Conservation in Farm Landscapes and found this fantastic list of reptiles that use fallen logs.

Species that Shelter in Loose Soil beneath Large Logs

  • Eastern Three-toed Earless Skink

  • Blackish Blind Snake

  • Eastern Blue Tongue

  • Two-clawed Worm Skink

  • Bynoe’s Prickly Gecko

  • Timid Slider

Species that Bask on Fallen Timber or Tree Trunks

  • Burns’ Dragon

  • Jacky Dragon

  • Ragged Snake-eyed Skink

  • Elegant Snake-eyed Skink

  • Nobbi Dragon

  • Eastern Bearded Dragon

  • Lace Monitor

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So now I wont be so vague in my answer on why fallen timber is good to leave in the paddock, and now I think I can say that messy = good! Celebrate the messy!

To Market, to Market

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"Go to the Canberra Markets Lou," one of our market friends said. "You will sell all your lamb in one go!" Others say, "you used to live in Sydney, you should sell all your produce there, you'd have a ready market". 

People often ask us why we don't go to Canberra or Sydney Markets to sell our produce. We know that we could 'compete' at these markets with our produce - there is no timidity about that. We probably could sell all our lamb at once at a Canberra or Sydney Market but we don't want to!

We have very good reasons, we think, not to go to markets in Canberra and Sydney. Here they are, see what you think!

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1. The Capital Cities already get the loads of Good Food
All food is drawn to the capitals because the populations are big, the incomes are bigger and there is arguably more of a foodie culture in the cities. But they are swimming in good food. They don't need us to turn up with our produce as well.

Related to this point is our second reason for not going to the capitals...

2. Rural and Regional People Deserve to eat Great Food Too!
If all the good food goes up and down the highway, what does the foodie do in a regional city when they want fantastic gluten and preservative free sausages (for instance). In every town  there are foodies who really appreciate good food. I want to feed them!

3. WE BELIEVE IN LOCAL FOOD!
Yep, I'm yelling it in capitals! We think that keeping food local is one way we try to do things differently. Customers often ask where our farm is, they mention that they used to live near there or their uncle used to shear near there or they'd noticed our sign while driving to Tumut or...  People get warm and fuzzies knowing that there food has not come from far away. 

4. WE BELIEVE IN LOW FOOD MILES!
Yep, I'm yelling again!  There is already too many food miles in our food. We think that keeping the food miles as low as possible we are being part of the solution to climate change instead of adding to it. We grow our lamb 20 mins from the abattoir, 75 minutes from the butcher that cuts up for us and makes our smallgoods and we have a policy of not travelling any more than 1.5 hours from a market to sell our produce.

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5. We believe in being as different as possible from the orthodox food systems
Anything you buy from Colesworths of this world, or even Harris Farm, have loads of food miles. If we took our food to Canberra or Sydney we too would be adding unnecessary food miles to our produce. If we profess to be 'alternative ' farmers , if we aim to do things differently, why on earth would we want to emulate the mainstream  and send everything we produce to the city?

6. We have to farm, yep we are farmers!
We need to spend time on the farm to farm and we want to sell our produce ourselves. We think our customers want that too - we think you want to meet the producer. We don't hire people to sell our stuff for us because just as our food is paddock to plate so we think it should be sold from the farmer to the customer.

Yes, we farm our property - they are our sheep and cattle, we make the condiments, we collect the eggs, we tend to our animals and sometimes we lay down in the grass or cuddle our dogs. Yep, we are the farmers, not a farm manager, not our relatives, it's us! Not everyone you see at market stalls are the farmers. 

If we go to local markets we are not wasting time travelling and we have more time to do what we want to do - be with our animals.
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Anyway that's why we sell where we sell. That's our rationale. There is more to farm ethics than just your production system and your animal welfare approach. Keeping food local, reducing food miles and keeping the link between farmer is food is important to us too.

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