Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Growing at Gully Grove

One of the things I love the most about living on our property, are the native wildlife. As we've effected the topography - building retaining walls to create flat land, on our slopes: we've seen the emergence of native wildlife, take up residence too. Because as we set the land in place (somewhat like setting a bone) the flora covers it over, like skin next. This flora is food and security, for the native wildlife, who act like the bloodstream - carrying nutrients all over the place.

This cycle of growth, is all connected...

In the dry

So when we experienced the drought recently, it was somewhat heartbreaking, to watch the skin failing, and the animals struggling. Above, is a baby Joey, caught in that particular struggle. The mother kangaroos, have always brought their baby's to our slopes - we've seen these mothers, be raised here, as Joey's. Now attempting to raise their own young. It's a cycle we get to witness, every year.

Slim pickings

They come to our slopes, in search of food to nourish themselves, and their babies. As the Joey's get closer to leaving the pouch however, they train at tasting the grass, that will soon become their diet. In the above photo, the baby Joey has very little food to grab. The grass is not long and lush, like it should be. So they can only grab at a dried-up weed, instead.

It was heartbreaking, to watch those tiny paws reach for something to eat, and only find something dead. I didn't write about it at the time, because it was hard enough to watch, let alone to share. Everything we do at Gully Grove, is to ensure the living systems are connected. But nature always has the final say, and periodic drought, is sometimes part of that conversation.

Thankfully, the heavens opened recently, ensuring this little Joey's future on our slopes was a lot more abundant....

After days of rain

Mama roo was able to find enough food during the drought, to make milk. This is what kept her Joey alive. With the return of rain however, this little girl is getting her fill of grass too. Just like Mama Roo. I'll tell you why it's a girl, at the end. It's similar to how I tell, boy and girl chicks apart.

Not only is she getting her fill of healthy greens now, but she's old enough to venture out of the pouch too.

 This is new?

Another reason, the mothers bring their Joey's to our slopes, is how safe it is for them to venture our of the pouch. We don't keep dogs, although our neighbours do. But between the house and the retaining wall, Mama Roo's can spring-clean their pouches, without worrying their babies will be in danger.

Just checking

Even with all this grass around, Joey's still want their top-up of milk - plus the security that pouch is close by. It's all the security they've known! But it's so funny, watching them leave the pouch for the very first time. They start jumping immediately, and get such a fright by their long legs, they jump straight back into mama's pouch!

We saw her do this, a few days prior. Gradually, she got used to her springy legs though, and began to become more daring in her adventures.

Look at me!

Above the retaining walls, are two intersecting footpaths. They come down either side of the slope, and meet in the middle. Designed for ease of human thoroughfare, they've also been adopted by the annual Joey population, as hopping ramps. Every year, without fail, they leave Mama's pouch, and make what feels to them, a giant hopping adventure - up and down the slopes.

For such wee things, they sure can hop! Faster than we can run.

Back again

At this age though, she's never far from her mother. While traversing the slope above, mum is just down the bottom of the retaining wall. Joey always checks in, to make sure mum hasn't gone anywhere. I'm reminded of human toddlers, who suddenly learn how to walk. What fun to try their new-fangled legs, but always scouting for mum too.


Then there are times to just stop and preen mum. Because Mama's need some love too


And times to learn your legs, can even reach-up and scratch your belly too!


At the same time our baby girl was hoping back into Mama's pouch, this little fellow shows up. He's watching them, and isn't old enough to leave his mother's pouch yet. Look at his short hair though - it hasn't grown in properly. Yet he's nearly twice the girl Joey's, size.

This is how I know he's a boy, and she's a girl. Her hair has grown in, old enough to leave the pouch, and yet is smaller than the male Joey. This Mama Roo had to work twice as hard, finding the food to feed her growing boy. The males are always bigger than the females, and take longer for their hair to grow in. Just like baby chicks. Only it's with feathers!


So we have two Mama Roos and two growing Joey's, on our slopes. Another generation of fledgling hoppers and eventual nutrient spreaders. They got through the drought, so can now gorge on the tender grasses in abundance. Their droppings will help feed the next crop of grass too.

It's not just about watching cute, baby kangaroos, emerge every year. It's also about ensuring the connection between land and nutrient flow, can continue. Without that, our landscape would be a lot poorer, and our job a lot harder. We need the kangaroos on our slopes, to help.

 Pigeon Pea seeds

So here I am, with a handful of pigeon pea seeds, saved from last year. They're so small, but will play a big part in our plans. While there's moisture in the ground, I will plant many more perennial trees, such as these. Because it's an important food source for the kangaroos, when the grass dies back in the dry.

With the extended drought just gone, I realised we didn't have enough forage trees for them. Why do I care? Because I want to increase the organic matter in our soils - and the kangaroo population, helps us to do that. They're perfectly designed to carry nutrients around our slopes, without causing soil compaction. Neither do they require fencing to "keep" them, like regular livestock.

All round, they're just the perfect fit for our topography. I grow the food source, and they keep growing the Joey's. My most important job at Gully Grove, is ensuring I continue to build connections, where there's a shortfall. Drought is one of the biggest disconnects, in our location. But these tiny seeds, can help bridge the gap.

The cycle continues

For in my hand, I hold many trees. Nitrogen fixing. Ground shading. Bee forage, when in flower. But most importantly, food that will grow in drier times. Perennial trees are hardier than grass like that, because of their deeper taproots. So they can endure more protracted dry periods, and still put on leaf growth. Not much, but it's surprising what a tree can deliver, in the dry.

The above leaves are growing on a four-year old tree. It was completely stripped in the drought, like all the pigeon peas in our yard. So bare, you would think this subtropical species, deciduous. But as soon as the rain arrives, the grasses return, and the kangaroos eat them again - instead of the pigeon peas. This cycle happens every year, but the extended dry this year, just reinforced natures' own strategy, of plant more than you think you'll need!

So if you're a gardener (or want to be) I encourage you to bring all those seeds out of storage, and plant more than you think you'll need!


  1. Oh those little Roos are so sweet!

    Look how quickly the grass has come back? It’s amazing isn’t it? Just so good to read.


    1. When the rains arrive in earnest, it's amazing how quickly the grass recovers. It's great to be able to look out the window, and see so many full bellies. Although I think it's time to bring out the lawn-mower, lol.

  2. I love this post, so full of hope and beauty.

    1. Thank you Marlene. It's nice to be able to move forward in a positive way. Take care. :)

  3. Isn't it amazing how quickly things "bounce" back after good rain. Such gorgeous photos ... love that little joey! The roos up on my Mum's property would dearly love some of that fresh, green grass. Things are very dry up in the Far North. Meg

    1. I was finally able to invest in a camera with a decent lens, last year. Which helps me get up close, when I'm stuck behind a window. We love our roos. Far North Qld is normally so wet. It's tropical and lots of downpours. Normally. Things shifted this year, everywhere - holding the water back. I really hope the rain moves in to your mum's property soon.

  4. Superb photos! Were you as close as it seems? Are they that tame? You must never get any work done, just sitting and watching them. Lucky you. All I've got is rabbits (but the tiny babies are funny to watch....pity they have to grow up!)

    1. Ha-ha, yes! Sometimes, they do literally stop me from working. Just this afternoon, I was about to go venture to the front yard, scouting for some wooden stakes. But there was Mama Roo, and her Joey out of the pouch again. I didn't want to scare them off, so waited until they moved a little further away.

      Because these Mama's were raised here as Joey's, they're not as skittish as the ones we first encountered. Sometimes they watch us move around the yard, and will stop eating to make sure we're not a threat. But then go straight back to eating when we move away again. I wouldn't call them tame though. They hop away if we get too close. Which I'm glad they still do. Those instincts are what keeps them alive, when they venture outside our yard.

      I have a camera with a long lens. So I can stay behind the window, and take photos from inside. I'm about 8 metres away from the kangaroos, with some of these shots. I guess they're tame, because they know we come from inside the house. We come through the doors. But they also know, we don't hassle them. Baby rabbits would be cute to watch! Although, the big ones do eat a lot of the stuff, we like to eat! Thankfully, in Qld, we only get Hares.

  5. I love this post so much Chris. I love that you have a connection and respect for the roos around you. They are amazing and very lovable creatures, who's antics are endlessly entertaining. I still can't eat roo meat, and I never will, but I respect that they have to be culled in some areas... but not on our land thanks! Walking our dogs up into the top paddocks is often an issue if I haven't spotted where the roos are and accidentally enter the paddock. It's leads on and strict commands while my heart beats madly until the dogs are restrained. We raised a female joey some years ago, and then when half grown she was taken by a fox. We've never got over it, she was the funniest and sweetest thing.

    1. What a joy to be able to raise a Joey. They are amazing little critters. All legs, lol. You did your best for her. It's hard to watch from the sidelines, sometimes, at how nature unfolds. What experiences we do get with them, however, is such a life-long gift. She's sounds like such a Darling. Thanks for sharing, Sally.

  6. Beautiful photos and beautiful sentiments. Thank you for sharing them with the world!

  7. I loved this post, from the photos to the message. It points to why I think we humans are here - stewardship.

  8. Thanks Manda, and Leigh. :) I couldn't agree more about the stewardship. The perfect use for our higher evolved brains, is to partner with all the living aspects, that connect together.

  9. Always love your thoughts and perspective Chris. Thanks for sharing.


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