Sunday, July 7, 2019

Do nothing

Nature is knocking at the door

Born out of a lack of time, too much land and aspects of weather, I don't always get outside when I need to. Some weeks, months or even years later, I return to particular  locations, and find an overgrown jungle. In the past, this frustrated me. Only because of the thought of having to pull it all out, and starting again.

However, this sometimes unavoidable (sometimes deliberate) approach of, "do nothing", has taught me some cost-effective and environmentally friendly strategies.

Hilltop, chicken coop (2014) when it's pretty

Take our chicken-coop for example. We got rid of some aging hens before summer (2018) with the intention of remodelling the coop. Mainly to insulate the roof and finally install guttering, for rainwater collection. But we'd have to wait for the heat of summer, to pass, first.

During the months in the interim, we knew we'd have no need for this location. So it was really the perfect time to, "do nothing". It's also known as, letting the land go fallow. A year or more, where it will not be disturbed, by anything but nature.

​As you can imagine,  the area became overgrown in no time.

Hilltop, Chicken coop (2019) engulfed by nature

Even without much rain during summer, this overgrown jungle, took over. But it was of no major concern. Because it was also:

  • Saving money, purchasing fuel 
  • Saving time spent mowing 
  • Retaining moisture through thick foliage cover 
  • Providing bee forage - the only place, flowering 
  • Providing habitat for pest predators, such as birds, spiders and snakes

We do get poisonous snakes here, occasionally. I've only seen the brown snakes, not the black. But we're more likely to encounter the non-venomous tree pythons. Even still, good reason to take precautions. A caveat to the do nothing method, is when it makes sense to do something. Like maintaining access paths.

Behind the coop (2019)

Having two water-tanks near the coop, we mow a strip between them. This causes less stress, when fetching water. As snakes are more likely to hang where the grass is thickest, and avoid open spaces. We have a high population of carnivorous birds, so snakes are trained to duck for cover.

Hard infrastructure is overdue for an upgrade, to make it more efficient - but in terms of the natural system, it's only gone from strength to strength. All those seed heads and tall grass, attracts small birds such as quail, finches and wrens. Which drop a lot of fertility behind, and make an impact on pests.

So even though WE'RE not doing much with this area, nature is. By a hundred fold, or more!

Going to flower

As I already mentioned earlier, this area was the only place flowering, during drier times. But also flowered the longest, between insignificant rain events. What you see pollinating the pigeon-pea flowers, are small native (stingless) bees. So I now have pigeon-pea pods developing. This gives me new seed to plant, at a time the drought was hammering (and in some instances - killing) some of my other trees.

This "do-nothing" approach, advantaged a select few of my fruit trees (in a nearby location) which I didn't notice, until recently. I'll share more about that in another post. But just goes to show, instead of feeling frustrated when nature knocks on my door, I look forward to it, instead. Because there are mutual benefits to our arrangement.

We did disturb this area recently, which I look forward to sharing another time. Because while there is a time to go fallow, the opposite is also true - a time to rejuvenate, through creative destruction.


  1. Chris, that long grass would worry me as I hate snakes. We have a lot of overgrown areas down the back here too which my hubby hasn't maintained and I hate walking down there in summer as there are a number of blue tongue lizards that take off into the grass when they are disturbed and I always think they are snakes when I hard the rustling.

    1. We get the skinks. They dart around the brush, like crazy, in breeding season. In the same vein as the blue-tongues in your backyard, the skinks can give me a fright too. But what scares me the most, isn't a reptile at all. In fact, it's scared me more times, and with more heart palpatations than a brown snake, has. It's the common quail.

      They're so quiet, I can almost be upon them and not realise it. Not until they fly straight up in the air. When it happens less than a metre away, and I'm not expecting it, boy I can jump! In comparison, I've been right over a python sleeping in the grass, and it's not interested in me, in the slightest. If I were to step on it though, that would be another story! Hence, why we always keep the walkways clear - to see where our feet are going.

      I certainly get a fright whenever encountering snakes in the garden, but they've always been so docile. The one brown that came racing through the front yard, towards me, was flushed out by our cat. It was panicking and couldn't get away, quick enough. It hated being out in the open. In my experience, when snakes have foliage to hide in, they're a lot more docile.

      Having said that, I wouldn't have tall grass in areas I was going to use regularly. So the snakes will radiate towards the overgrown areas, I don't use much. I love the sound of your blue tongue lizards though. They keep the snail populations down. :)

  2. I meant to say 'when I hear the rustling'. LOL! I have a new keyboard which I am getting used to as it isn't as big as the old one. That's my excuse anyway :-)

  3. I love the idea of 'do nothing', but I can't afford to here, on a bush block in a designated bushfire zone and with the risk increasing with every warming year. So every week is 'do something' in a different area from the previous week, so the whole property gets covered by some sort of maintenance, at least a few times per year. Daily work includes raking paths and litter, cutting a few shrubs down to ground level to reduce fuel loads (most will resprout from the base and won't need another haircut for 3-4 years), removing fine, dead fuels and obvious weeds and (over winter) burning it all off. And when there's time (LOL) trying to tend to the veggie garden and food forest. Never a dull moment!

    1. I can certainly understand that approach too. It makes sense to reduce fuel loads. Having chickens in a fenced area around the coop, would help me in that regard as well. Anything to help keep the vegetation maintained. Because it grows so fast when the rain eventually falls.

      I'm of two minds when it comes to reducing fuel loads, in a bushfire. Having living vegetation to cool the soil underneath, and retain moiture, makes it harder to burn. The more we remove as soil coverage, therefore, the less hydrated and more prone, plants are to burning. So I attempt to strike a balance between letting some areas go, and maintaining others. Always with the goal of reducing soil temperatures.

      Having said that, I'm not a purist and certainly see the advantages of different approaches too. Like in the case of your new biochar kiln. It mimicks the bushfire cycle, without the danger of burning infrastructure. You're returning the minerals to the soil in the form of biochar. Which does hold onto moisture for longer, when wet. Advantaging plants to be more fire resistant.


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