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2017-2018 Murrnong PDC

PDC poster

Nov 11 2017 – May 13 2018  –  A 14 Day Course, shared over 7 weekend sessions from Spring through to Autumn. This extended format gives you time to take what you’ve learnt each session, thoroughly digest it all, absorb the sometimes life-changing content, and grow together as a learning community through these seasons. 

This PDC engages and immerses you in design examples, at Murrnong and at other sites, with examples from intensive urban to rural. We try to include something hands on and practical each day. more…..

The Spring shift

Pasture growth is a grazing resource and our main soil development tool. In the tree crops at this time of year we mow to set back the grass, and free up the soil and water resources for tree growth and fruiting.

orchard

Winter grazing only removes about 50% of the leaf area, with very little root growth retardation. The pasture recovers very quickly. The spring mowing removes almost 100% of the pasture leaf area, and substantially sets back the grass. Grass roots die, soil microbes decompose these, and tree roots and their fungal associates then explore those former grass root pathways for nutrients.

Early Spring this year saw cool weather, rain, a full soil profile of stored water, and surplus water in the upper profile.So we let the grass in the tree rows keep growing, using that surplus moisture, and adding more root material to the orchard soil.

Timing of the main Spring mowing depends mostly on water availability …. is the soil moisture better used for more grass growth, or saved for the trees?
Other factors we consider are
– availability of pasture for the goats, and of mown pasture for chicken forage
– very dense and vigorous grass growth competing with the trees…. size of trees vs the grass
– reducing fire risk for the coming summer, trying to allow time for surface mulch to begin to decompose
– use the tractor and fuel as little as possible while still maintaining good production and fire safety
– attraction and hosting of pollinators in the orchard other than honeybees, and insect predators for pest control services
– forage for honeybees, mainly the pollen resource for hive increase in Spring from capeweed daisy Arctotheca calendula

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This very dense grass growth among smaller trees in the olive grove was probably beginning to compete with the trees.

Closing circles

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Digging out the deep litter in the chook yard for use in the kitchen gardens. This wonderful rich compost soil will be great food for the soil micro organisms and for our veggies! The chooks really appreciate me digging around in the yard, a lot of compost worms are contributing to the chooks’ protein needs these days. I turn the litter a day before removing it to let the chooks scratch through it and eat all they want, since compost worms don’t survive in the gardens beds anyway.

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In the second half of the chook yard there’s the mountain of weeds I’ve been removing from the kitchen gardens the last two weeks. The chooks really like our kitchen and garden waste – brassica flowers, snails and celery seems to be their favourites. Happy, well nourished chooks reward us with more eggs!

 

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Welcome Cecilia

Our very happy news is that Cecilia Lundmark has come to live at Murrnong.

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Cecilia is an all round wonderful person who brings many skills and much awesomeness to Murrnong.

Cecilia and David were married in July, in her native Sweden.

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Grass and growth!

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7th October 2016, goats grazing and David standing in a row of pasture between 16 year old olive trees.img_0048 This was close grazed and almost bare in early May, after having been grazed 4 or 5 times through the summer. In the last 6 months of cool wet conditions, it has been grazed two more times. Other than some woodchip compost under the trees, the pasture itself has not had fertiliser added of any kind for about 16 years. No ploughing either. Just pulse grazing and pulse mowing. Annual and perennial plants go well together, combined with high impact short rotation grazing.spring-2016
Capeweed growth on orchard farm track, very little capeweed elsewhere.
Capeweed, Arctotheca calendula, can be seen flowering on the edge of the footpath in the foreground of the second photo, and on the farm track above. Capeweed is a fast growing annual that has grown well around tracks and high traffic areas, and in other places where the soil is bared. The capeweed flowers are providing pollen for the spring bee build-up, and the capeweed roots are opening and repairing the soil. If we stopped using the tracks they would heal and regenerate and revert to pasture. With continued good pasture management there is no risk of this plant invading from the tracks and taking over the pasture areas.

Grafting and queen mating flight

kate-barnwellOne of the joys of working in nature are the occasional special little moments of connection.
Kate Barnwell, fruit tree enthusiast from South Carolina, was helping us catch up on some grafting. While scoping out what we wanted to do across the whole orchard, we had admired how active and plentiful our bees are this glorious Spring.
Then about 30 minutes later we were working on this cherry plum, 200 metres from the hives, when a  cloud of bees passed right over our heads, coming from the direction of the hives.
We tried to follow them on foot, but unlike a swarm they were travelling purposefully, too fast for us to follow them far, and quickly went out of sight beyond the olive grove. The next day none of the hives showed reduced numbers, as they would have if they had given up a swarm, so it seems we were just in the right place at the right time to witness a queen and some of her admirers on their way to a drone congregation area. It felt very magical to have just been admiring the bees 30 minutes before, then to be 200 metres away and have them fly right over our heads, as if they wanted to show us what they were up to.

Parkland for the future

It is a rare opportunity to lay out a new treed parkland within a township area. What criteria to use to choose the trees and shrubs? Who will be motivated to maintain this privately owned parkland? How will the trees and grass be managed?

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David Arnold, Jim Peart and Struan Clarke on the day of planting

This 8 hectare site within Avenel village will have a 10 lot residential subdivision, Belmont Hamlet, with the greater portion of the space to become parkland. For me, David Arnold, it was a pleasure to work with Jim and Winifred Peart, the developers, on this parkland project. I have been working with Jim on occasional tree development projects since 1998.

Jim and Struan will care for these private land parkland plantings while they are young, including weeding around the trees and mechanical mowing, but such altruistic expense cannot be expected to last forever. In the longer term we had to consider how to allow the future park manager(s) to obtain a yield from this land, and how to ensure that these future managers value and appreciate the trees.

So we anticipate future grass management by grazing animals, probably sheep and/or goats. The common parkland form, of an open wooded grassland, can be ideal for grazing. We selected attractive shady long lived species, all giving a passive yield of shade for animals and people, and most of which also give a direct grazing and possible human food yield. So… a number of hardy oak (Quercus) species for acorns, Carobs, also for autumn fodder supplement, Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus) which can give foliage fodder, plus some Boree (Acacia pendula), and a few Peppercorn trees (Schinus molle). A mix of regional natives and introduced species. Ecosynthesis.