Wednesday, July 11, 2018

All downhill

In a landscape, meandering with gullies, it's easy to believe the forces of water can be somewhat destructive. And they can be! True to the natural sequences, Peter Andrews, outlines in his book, "Back from the Brink", however, I see other forces of nature at work too.

Within this eroding gully, forged by water, plants are playing their integral part. Over the years, tree roots from the formidable eucalyptus trees, have been uncovered by soil erosion. They cling to the soil in a last-ditch effort, to turn the tide in their favour again.

Right now, you can see the detritus (leaves) which have fallen to the ground. In winter we don't normally get a lot of rain, so the trees shed their leaves. For many months, they accumulate on the gully floor, waiting for the next storm season to arrive, in summer.

When the rain arrives in earnest, to collect water in the gully again, all that tree detritus will get caught in the tree roots as the water escapes. It slows the water, and filters nutrients, every time it rains.

The floods in 2011 (no doubt) brought down those rocks, wedged against the tree root. Which also acts as a natural barrier to catch tree detritus - but allows water to permeate through, with less soil erosion.

All those natural sequences, led to one essential repairing mechanism in the landscape. Silt accumulation. Those exposed tree roots, are now halting erosion - creating a series of steps on the upper landscape instead. Which is one way to reverse deep gullies, getting deeper, the faster water travels downhill.

I actually took note of this relationship between the tree roots and water flow, when I went scouting for rocks, recently. We're building our drystone retaining wall, and need more backfill.

Seeing how valuable these rocks have been, in repairing the gully, however, I wasn't about to remove them! It goes to show, even in a degraded landscape, such as ours', nature is diligently forging a repair schedule. Ergo, trees are absolutely essential on a sloped landscape!

What natural sequences, have you discovered happening in your backyard?

Monday, July 2, 2018

REAL land life - neighbours

We've been fortunate, no matter where we lived, to reside near excellent neighbours. At Gully Grove, over the past decade, has been no exception either. There were the rare few, which - because of their actions, have raised subsequent issues for us to deal with. However, they were willing to make amends and work with us, on solutions. All except one family, but I consider them the rare exception.

I needed that disclaimer, because my desire is to avoid a rant about "bad" neighbours. I haven't really had any. Not truly bad neighbours. This post is about neighbours in relation to your land, however, and how their actions can affect what approach you adopt.

Work continues, on our drystone retaining wall

We were the last to purchase land from the developer. Both our next-door neighbours, purchased their land about a year ahead of us. They seemed to be a decade older, too. We were the young couple with a new family. We all got on well. Neighbours were regarded when they needed help, or when it came to having things like roosters and dogs. We chose to discuss with each other, what we were personally doing, to keep open dialogue and discus any negative impacts.

But then one original owner, sold about a year after we moved in. That particular location, is now on it's second set of new neighbours. The other (original owner) just sold recently. We met the new neighbours, after their 3 enormous great Danes, wondered into our yard, and started to harass our chickens.

Which brings me to what changes have occurred on our land, due to our neighbours.

  • How water flows downstream. We love it when neighbours want to hold water back, especially upstream. However, they have to do it right, or risk increasing erosion on their neighbour's land, should their efforts fail. 

  • Earthworks. Moving earth requires a degree of knowledge, so as not to cause land slips or funnel water onto neighbouring properties. Consider potential dam sites, should they burst and effect your infrastructure.

  • Noise pollution. Music, machinery, motorbikes, fighting cats and barking dogs.

  • Reduced wildlife populations. Noise pollution, and increased carnivore load, has impacted the native wildlife, present on our land. The numbers have reduced, in direct proportion with other people's domestic animals increasing. Which means less diversity migrating to our landscape, and leaving beneficial fertility behind.

  • Loss of greenery and natural sequences. The more people who move here, the more changes the shared landscape, has to carry. Water pathways are interrupted, and increased infrastructure, creates more water run-off. Running water is an eroding force. So natural sequences are more out of balance - sequences, vital to establishing greenery and providing stability in the landscape.

So, even when your neighbours are decent people, don't be surprised when they impact your landscape. So consider in your property design, vulnerable areas between you and your neighbours. Especially anything that runs upstream, from you. Whether water, or earth displacement, or their wandering animals, consider how you may have to change how you're managing your landscape, to compensate.

 Visiting, male King Parrot

Also, don't be surprised if your neighbours change hands, multiple times. So you're left with a mishmash of ideas, no-one stuck around to see if they worked. It will impact your landscape too. So if moving to the country, means peace and tranquility - be sure to buy more land than five acres. Because larger parcels of land, have fewer neighbours to develop the shared landscape. Be aware however, the larger parcel of land, the more responsibility involved in managing it (for you).

Ironically, we came here for peace, tranquility, native wildlife and distance from over-development. That has changed over the years. We simply have to make the best of the situation, we can. But if you're in a position of setting up (on however many acres) consider your neighbour placement, and how you can design your property for a change of guard(s).

This can be done by:

  • Note the sensitive areas between neighbours - upstream and downstream. Avoid infrastructure development, in those areas. Designate those sensitive areas, as "sacrificial" zones. So when change occurs, it won't impact your hard work.

  • Correct house placement in relation to all neighbours. Regardless how nice they may be, neighbours can change hands, or have a change of heart, with former agreements

  • Access roads, or easements which may be mandated on your land - avoid development in those areas, at the very least. Avoid purchasing land with those existing entitlements, altogether. It's will test relations, if neighbours, or third parties with interests on those roads and easements, decide to take advantage - and it effects your operation.

  • Site house and infrastructure, as far away as possible, from property boundaries. So neighbour development cannot encroach on solar access, privacy, or risk damaging structures on your property, should any trees on their side of the fence, fall.

  • Even on acreage, site your house where it can be shielded on all sides from: noise pollution, wind and water; all entering from neighbouring properties.

This list is not about avoiding neighbours, its more about sensible planning for permanence, in the face of change that will occur. There is nothing more permanent than your house, and hopefully, your land. So plan with these things in mind. Because you cannot "undo" infrastructure placement, once they start building around you.