Saturday, September 5, 2009

Importance of local information

As we live on the outskirts of a very large shire, our Council provides a mobile library service once a fortnight to our area. We've been using it quite regularly over the past 18 months. Well last week, Dave came home with a ripper of a book that I wish we'd stumbled across years ago.

It's called, "Living in the Lockyer", and published by The Lockyer Catchment Centre, Queensland.

What's so remarkable about this book? Well it explains the local topography in a way that encourages better approaches to land management. It's not heavy on the scientific lingo, but rather tells a story about how this area evolved into what it is today.

Most remarkably, is how the societies which lived here generations ago; actually changed the rural landscape forever. Large farming families on large blocks had to make a reasonable living for themselves. It started with the traditional pursuits of livestock and crops, in which much of the lower landscapes were cleared for that purpose. Years of overgrazing and cropping however, saw the local soils gradually lose their fertility. When it became difficult to continue farming in this way, the families then turned to the higher landscapes for logging purposes.

This is where our block fits into the equation. I'd heard from the locals that this area was once heavily logged. As such, we don't have much understory plants to speak of now and the local spotted gums (eucalyptus trees) have taken over the landscape. Most of our weeding pursuits in the garden involves the removal of sapling trees around the house.

How our block was advertised on the net - typical scrub country

Of course our goal here is to gradually improve the soil fertility and how we manage the land. Which ironically, this book says is the solution to areas which now encounter land slips, soil erosion and weed infestations. They say the solution is in the hands of landholders looking for a lifestyle block. Because the years of mining soil fertility and local flora has to be undone. It now needs intensive restoration.

It was such a buzz to read this book. We've been attempting to do the very things which will undo the damage. You cannot live here and not notice the soil erosion with each storm season. You cannot avoid the lantana outcrops either. They're everywhere. It was so encouraging to read local information, gathered by the managing body of the catchment area, to see we are heading in the right direction.

Give us another decade or more, and we may just have some of the damage rejuvenated. Or at least I hope we can. I made a pact with our 5 acres when we first decided to build, that I would give something back for the house that would sit here. I don't want to leave another legacy of depletion behind us.

So I am eagerly reading the book, front to back cover. It even has examples of systems which have worked for locals here already - and how they've chosen to deal with soil erosion and land slippage. One of the big shortcomings is in our local soils - there is a very thin layer of topsoil, if any at all. Storm water skids over an impermeable surface, but doesn't do any damage once it's allowed inside the soil.

Typical soil erosion and land slippage for our area

Improving soil fertility, improves it's ability to absorb and hold water. The thicker the topsoil, the more water it can hold. Our pursuit now is to fix that imbalance, by providing a more diverse range of native understory plants.

If I could encourage people do to anything, it would be to seek out local information designed specifically for their area. Find publications that will explain the problems, as well as solutions which have proven to work. There's quite a lot of general information out there to teach better land management, but nothing beats a local take on local solutions.

So prowl the shelves of your local library today! You never know what you'll find...

While you're still here though, I've complied a few links which could be useful:

Greening Australia
Landcare Australia
Learnscaping your Schoolground - could be useful for any backyard with kids too!

1 comment:

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love reading what you have to share. Gully Grove is a Spam free environment though, so new commenter’s only leaving hyperlinks, will be promptly composted.