An agronomist once told us to destroy the Carex grasslands in our Home Valley, “nuke it”, he said, “burn it, then spray it, then burn it again, that’ll get rid of it”, he gestured enthusiastically, “it’s rubbish, your sheep won’t eat it”.

I thanked him for his time and promptly ignored his professional advice – thank goodness I didn’t pay for it!

Carex isn’t loved around here, on the farms of the Snowy. It’s missing from most farms’ landscapes now. In fact, it’s so uncommon that it is now considered an endangered ecological community.


Carex is its genus name – people call it cutty grass. It’s a fitting common name – run the long, straight leaves through your fingers in the wrong direction and you can slice your finger open in one of those deep wounds that takes a second to bleed and an age to stop.

Carex is a tall and rough, tussock–type grass. It typically grows in the floor of valleys wherever the water flows. It slows down the water movement through the valley – the dense grasses hold the water up, deflecting its potentially eroding energy.

Carex slowing down the potentially eroding power of water

Carex slowing down the potentially eroding power of water


The agronomist was right – our sheep don’t eat it, or at least they don’t eat the grass. But in spring when the growth is fresh and green the sheep skip from tussock to tussock sweeping the sticky flowering heads into their mouths with their thick but agile tongues.

In autumn and in spring, when our chubby ewes lamb down their tiny babies, they often do it among the Carex tussocks, hiding their bright white babies from potential predators. And on a windy day ewes place their lambs downwind from a clump of Carex.

In summer and autumn, the shade provided by the Carex tussocks creates a micro-climate where pockets of green grass can still prosper when the rest of the paddock is brown. Our sheep search between the Carex to find these succulent remnants of spring.

In all seasons the Carex provides sheltering habitat for Brown Quail, Golden Cisticola and Superb Wrens. They take to the sky when the dogs play together in a game of leap and chase.


Last spring, while walking with the big dog in the Home Valley Pepe found a mound of fluffy duck down feathers. He stuck his long Maremma snout into it and snuffled – it must have felt lovely on his inquisitive nose and, to a dog, it probably smelt fabulous as well.

Finding this beautiful fluffy pile made me find out about Wood Duck nests. Wood Ducks – they are the ones where the male has the lovely chocolate brown head – nest in large hollows in eucalyptus trees usually near water. At Highfield each year they nest in astonishingly tall twin Blakley’s Red Gums that tower over the Carex-nestled main spring-fed dam.

The parent Wood Ducks line their nest hollow with copious amounts of down that carefully conceal their precious eggs.

Incomprehensibly, soon after hatching, the fluffy ducklings launch themselves from their nursery hollow to the ground where the adults lead them to safe, dense vegetation and then onto water. Our Carex grasslands provide such protective cover to the newborn fluff-bomb ducklings.

Our carex sedgelands

Our carex sedgelands in Home Valley paddock

Each year the numbers of Wood Ducks increase in the Home Valley – we are very glad they like the Carex as much as we do.


Wort Work – Eradicating the Weed Naturally

St John's Wort is by far the most prevalent weed on Highfield. Introduced from Europe, Asia and North Africa, it was brought to Australia in 1875 as a garden plant and for use in herbal medicine. St John's Wort has become a severe weed in parts of NSW. A perennial...

Ancient Paddock Trees and Succession Planning

When you look at an ancient paddock tree you are looking at a tree that will most likely be dead in 40 years’ time taking with it its important role in the ecosystem and a whole raft of biodiversity.

Restoring Native Grasses – Kangaroo Grass

We take seriously our obligation to protect, enhance and restore the important natural biodiversity that remains – not just in our conservation area but in our grazing paddocks as well.

What We’ve Learned About Thistles

TYPES OF THISTLES During the first couple of years at Highfield, we learned a lot about thistles - we had to, there were just so many of them. “Are there different types of thistles?”, I hear you ask. “Aren’t they all just Scotch Thistles?” Ah, no is the short answer....

Revegetating Sheep Camp Hill

Sheep Camp Hill grew nothing, nothing – it was too poisoned even for weeds.

Farming with Habitat – Bird life at Highfield

Some of the greatest bird diversity can be seen where the edges of different habitats are found – where forest meets woodland meets grassland.

Farming with Habitat – Wombats

Our visitor asked if we had any wombats. My reply was “loads of them!”  “Do you mind them being here?”, she asked carefully not knowing what response she might get. 

Farming with Habitat – Messy Paddocks

“Plenty of firewood here – enough for a lifetime, how come there is so much wood in the paddocks”, they asked.







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