Welcome dear Friends, to our report for September 2019.
Once again, we thank guests for contributing to the September selection of photographs.
While Greta Thunberg was reminding the world that many of our emperors have no clothes on, Kachana experienced another dry month. In fact, it remains a dry year! The last one that was similar was in 1992. Back then we had no fire-danger, because there was so little that could have burned. Today fire is a threat until the rains come… and sometimes even then!
DONKEYS or FIRE? … it probably depends on where you are and what one is wishing to achieve...
We say both are useful “tools” when managing the land and there is no need for polarisation on the issue.
Why tie a land-manager’s hands behind her/his back by banning the use of any proven “tool”?
Here on Kachana we have a problem with “one size fits all solutions” especially when managing the complex dynamics of landscapes.
Why would anyone want to replace herbivores with fire?
Sadly, this is what appears to be taking place in many parts of the Kimberley!
We have only been moving around and living in these landscapes since 1985, but the changes we witness are disconcerting to say the least. However, we also see signs for hope!
Given the ongoing debate about the role of large herbivores versus the use of fire in seasonally dry landscapes, the choice of this month’s photos and our commentary reflect that theme.
It is the time of year when fresh dry “muesli” is on the menu for our herbivorous Middle Level Management.
We grow grass and other vegetation in order to pull more carbon into the system. This then feeds the life in our soils. Living soils in turn provide plants with nutrients.
Each year when the rains stop, vegetation quickly turns dry. We do our best to ration out what we grow to feed Middle Level Management as they assist in soil-building processes, flood-mitigation, drought-proofing and wild-fire mitigation strategies.
Alternatives are visible all around us: Ranges being turned into rooftops and gutters with resultant down-stream flooding, springs drying up sooner that in earlier times and a loss in perennial stream-flow.
Areas that until recent times supported sponges, wetlands and permanently flowing creeks are now shedding rain-water down-stream faster and faster instead of replenishing aquifers.
Plants play functional roles in landscapes as well... Weeds or workers? It depends!
Plants are our Lower Level Management; Plants communicate!
A healthy plant tells us: The management that is taking place here suits me just fine!
An unhealthy plant tells us: There are things happening here that I feel uncomfortable with.
In country on a pastoral lease, we argue that it is the role of Upper Level Management to determine why a semi-desert plant would thrive in what was a wetland!
(Hint: it is seldom a lack of biocides in the landscape😊)
When we moved out to Kachana late 1991, Calotropis was holding soil together and slowing down erosion in former wet-lands. (Thank you Calotropis!)
Today Calotropis is a declared pest.
Fortunately for us we did not need to spray our catchments with biocides. Once weeds have done their job, we do not see them anymore. (This has to do with biological succession: “A species disappears when the conditions for reproduction become unfavourable.”)
The country seems to be talking to us as well!
We believe it is informing us that there is plenty more work out there for Australia's New Megafauna: mulching, evenly distributing fertilizer and pruning vegetation.
This is CO2 DRAWDOWN!
(Read Paul Hawken’s book or listen to Paul Hawken explain.)
Large herbivores (in our case donkeys, horses and cattle) are often also severe grazers and tramplers. (The larger the herbivore, the more “rubbish plants” it can re-cycle or even up-cycle.)
We have observed that managed large herbivores can be used to complement and even perform the beneficial role that fire might perform in a landscape: create edge-effect and remove dead and senescent vegetation which might otherwise choke new growth.
More importantly, appropriately managed large herbivores do not produce the negative effects that so often come with fire. (I.e. Fire exposes soil, pollutes the air and dehydrates bare ground that is then exposed to further dehydration and erosion.)
When managed to work according to the functional roles of their wild ancestors, severe grazers also make life pleasant for nibbler-species. In our case a range of marsupials who come and enjoy the fresh sprouts which begin to appear within days after biological mowing by the severe grazers has taken place. (Commercial producers often simply add more species to their enterprise-mix.)
A Donkey Film Crew? - From the USA to Kachana Station!
World-wide, donkeys have played significant roles in assisting humans in a range of endeavours. (Once mechanisation and fossil-fuels replaced Donkey-Power, local economies no longer put a value on it. Bosses often released their former work-mates into early retirement. In the Kimberley, survival for a donkey [a semi-desert animal] is a part-time job. Much of the spare energy would have gone into donkey-sex-life. By the seventies [probable even before then, in some instances] exploding donkey populations were becoming a problem in many areas. Populations needed to be managed.)
Donkeys lack the lime-light that so often shines on their equine cousins. Mark, Amy, Mike and their team are passionate about them. They educate, raise community awareness and assist in finding new homes for unwanted donkeys. They came to Kachana, intrigued by the idea that there are also new roles and plenty of jobs for donkeys. In the late nineties we began putting donkeys back to work. We want to make use of that freely available energy for regenerative landscape management.
(For further comment on “regenerative landscape management”, please scroll down the page.)
Kimberley donkey-politics has produced at least one good thing: the realisation that there is so much that we all do not know.
- Is our legislation faulty? Does it favour unintended consequences in our landscapes?
- Are we managers interpreting correctly what we observe in the landscapes we work in?
- Are our officials competent and keeping up-to-speed with increasing knowledge about ecosystem-function?
- What does the science indicate?
- Are we asking the right questions?
- How can we better work with the well-meaning people who staff our departments?
While all the talking goes on, the world keeps turning and we keep exploring ways of keeping Middle Level Management motivated and behaving in ways that could be increasingly effective. One of the tricks is to strategically position and shift salt-blocks with trace-elements in them. When we lack the desired time to be with our animals, this goes a long way to keep everybody content and to influence animals to spend more time in certain areas.
Time speeds ahead and we hope October is a great month for you all.
Greetings from Kachana!
Photos of the Month
Quote of the Month
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Link of the Month
Who are 'Soils for Life'?
John Anderson talks to Soils for Life founder, former Governor-General Major General Michael Jeffery AC, (AO (Mil), CVO, MC (Retd), and Soils for Life practitioner, farmer Charlie Maslin. Soils for Life is an Australian non-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging the widest possible adoption of regenerative landscape management practices (also known as regenerative agriculture) across rural, remote and urban environments.
News & Views
Why promote “Regenerative practices” at landscape levels?
Answer: Regenerative practices” differ fundamentally to what most of us are used to.
Why the focus of rehydration at landscape levels?
- Rehydrated landscapes are more resilient in the face of drought, flood and fire.
- Rehydrating landscapes offers water-security and hence genuine biosecurity!
- Rehydrating landscapes is a community-building activity.
Dietician, musician, footballer, kick-boxer, plumber, professor, pimp or politician… take away their water and within hours their performance will be equal.
Similarly, the best-practice farm will not sustain production in the face of dehydrating landscapes, and droughts, floods and fires can only get worse.
Dates to remember:
The Savory Global Network is hosting a gathering in Albury NSW: 3rd and 4th March 2020
Go and listen to, and meet people at the cutting edge of the regenerative paradigm!
If it flies, we can find a use for it!