There is an invasive grass which spreads by fibrous rhizome. I tried removal, but expect it will be back in some form. After an hours work, the sun slowly moved overhead. I knew the soil (which was a gorgeous chocolate loam) was going to cook the longer it was exposed to the elements.
Lovely chocolate soil
True to our recycling practices, we didn't waste the weeds and chipped them along with some wooden branches to cover the soil again. I left the spreading grass I pulled, to dry in the sun, and will use them as a cover mulch in another area.
Now waiting to be planted out
After a lick of water, it should be ready to use in a week or so. While it may have looked like an overgrown mess to begin with, all that sprawl was protecting the soil. It was absolutely beautiful soil too, which is something I've found underneath a lot of our sprawling mess. Pull back the jungle, and you'll find moist soil even when it hasn't rained for weeks.
By the afternoon, I planted another shrub in the back yard and then saw white flecks floating on the air. I knew straight away that it was ash, and it wasn't long until I could smell the smoke. It was coming from our neighbours backyard. They had recently cleared some of their land with heavy equipment, and as tradition would have it, decided to burn the debris they gathered up.
They lit the fire in the cool of the afternoon, and it had rained a lot about a week ago, but I still thought they had too much burning at once - a good twenty meter stretch. Some of the rural fire brigade neighbours thought so too, when they drove over to see everything was okay. The fire didn't spread but it was a big fire - too big for their single domestic hose to bring under control anyway.
After my wonderful day in the yard, pulling mess and appreciating its value as a soil protector, I could only stand by and watch the large fire burn next door. The birds who are normally at their most vocal in the late afternoon, weren't making a sound now. The kangaroos who normally come for their afternoon feed in our yard, were nowhere to be seen either. All living things which are in partnership with the environment, knew fire was not something to be invited in.
And yet many people invite it in, as a misinformed notion of preventing wild bushfires, or as a quick way to tidy up the yard. When people live in the residue of fire, they live in an unstable environment that will become more brittle and fire prone in the next heatwave. When people live in the residue of fire, they breed successive generations of plants that are designed to go "whoosh" quickly, which means more intense fires next time.
Lantana is declared a noxious weed ~
but grows the best soil before we can get to removing them
When you live in the residue of decaying matter on the ground however, you invite living things to thrive, reproduce and create successive generations of moisture-filled living tissue. Harder to go "whoosh" when it burns, and thus reduces the temperature of the fire. I've seen the difference in our yard, to those in the area which are periodically burned. They are dry, baron and constant work for their owners - either in dealing with the soil erosion or mowing the endless grass, which is a day away from turning brown afterwards.
Our yard is constant work too. In fact, just recently when the neighbour used equipment to clear their yard, I was tempted to feel it would save us a lot of work if we used heavy equipment too. David and I have talked about it before, but the main issue preventing us is the homeless animals we will create, by shifting so much of the environment at once. Manual work is harder and takes longer, but the impact we create on the environment is reduced as a result.
Pumpkin vine prunings, moved aside to rot ~
nature's original disposal system
It also allows the environment to heal after we've effected an area. Unlike the way the neighbour burned yesterday, and was at it again today. It saddens me to think we've created multiple generations who think their environment will simply repair itself and look after them, the more they rip it back and ignore its needs. I used to think like that too. Until we moved into a tinder box and saw how nothing would grow in the landscape.
Things didn't grow in poor soil, with minimal rainfall in extreme temperatures, unless there was vegetation. If that vegetation was weeds, so be it. Leave them. Slash if required, but never burn. Take out trees if you have to, but leave them on the property to decay. It's food for the termites which in turn, becomes food for the echidnas. Countless insects will use deadwood for shelter and nests too, which will feed the next generation of birds and lizards. All this activity sequesters carbon into the soil, instead of sending it up into the air.
Man-made areas, need constant attention ~
natural landscapes look after themselves
Messiness is nature's order, to build stability back into the landscape. Degraded areas are therefore, prone to a lot of messiness. If we understand this is how it was meant to be, maybe we won't be so quick to tidy up. Every area in the garden we've disturbed, and then let nature take over again, has done far better than the areas we've tried to maintain an order to ourselves. Mowing and slashing was far better than pulling and removing - although its okay to remove, if the vegetation sits on top of the soil to decay.
Click image to enlarge
I did this recently, when planting in the front batter. I pulled a lot of grass and heaped it like a berm. A week later, I pulled back a small hole in the dead grass to plant into, and it was moist. Nothing I've planted in this particular area (directly into the soil) has managed to live through our long, hot, and often dry summers. I'm hoping by planting into a thick mat of straw, it will improve the moisture/soil content somewhat, and it's doing a terrific job already.
Luffas and Gourds can live in the garden for years, slowly rotting down
The trouble with this particular part of paradise, isn't fire, weeds or a lack of rainfall. It's people's attitudes towards their environment. They consider the lack of rain for making it so dry, as they light another fire to keep the grass and weeds under control. What they don't realise, is they're sucking the water right out of the ground, by their own hands.
Not a lot of people would set their homes alight to "tidy up", so its not a very good idea in nature either. When gathering debris in our yards, we should leave it to rot and collect moisture as much as possible. We can do that in a tidy, more useful way than merely setting a flame to it. Not all fires are bad (BBQ's, wood stoves in winter or moderately sized pit fires) but the wholesale use of fire as vegetation control, is counterproductive to creating a stable environment.
Muesli, the cat
If all this sounds like a bit of a lecture, stop to consider if each and every one of us has given the issue much thought? Maybe we need to revisit how we look upon our gardening spaces, to be more in line with nature. I know I never warmed to having a messy garden, straight off the bat. I was forced to do it by sheer size of the property, and changing circumstances. Now I know the benefits however, I'm more mindful of what's important - the view, or whether I work towards nature's best interests?
Does it really matter if people burn every year? I personally haven't found it very beneficial on the parcels of land, it's been done to in this area. They're degraded, hotbeds and constantly thirsty. Why not just try the recycling experiment however. Put everything grown on the property, back onto the property. If weeds invade, don't break your back trying to control them - plant what you want to amongst them instead. Or use them to mulch under a tree - they make excellent mulching material.
Trouble in your particular part of paradise? Try letting nature take over and show you what actually works. It will be very enlightening and incredibly productive.