Mature Eucalyptus and Acacia in a Permaculture system
It doesn’t seem that long ago at all that we moved to the farm with a great enthusiasm for planting trees.
The land had been cleared for pasture, the big trees were gone, the wind howled across the paddocks and we were young and full of enthusiasm. Fast growing Eastern States Acacia were all the rage and depending on the zone these were interplanted with either Eucalyptus Species or the slower growing oaks, carobs, olives and other Mediterranean food forest trees.
Buying seedlings and getting together with friends and family for tree planting days is a joy, and we were lucky enough to keep the enthusiasm going through those early years when the weeds grew higher than the newly planted trees and we had to crawl around on our hands and knees to find the babies we’d planted. We protected them from stock, protected them from wind and protected them from wildlife.We watched them grow and celebrated the new life we had brought to the old paddocks.
And then they grew. They did everything we wanted them to do, creating windbreaks for our young veggie gardens and orchards, attracting birds and insects for pest control and giving privacy and shade for a growing community of permaculturalists and activists.
And then they grew a little more, stretching their limbs over fences that seemed way out of reach when we planted them, dropping branches over access ways, creating large areas of fuel (and in an area of extreme bush fire danger this is not only a concern for us but attracts attention and penalties from the local shire), expanding their root systems into irrigated areas and shading out gardens.
Removing branches and dead wood was no longer a job for a hand saw and a wheelbarrow but a chainsaw and a ute. As we got older, the job and the machinery got bigger, more expensive and more dangerous.
Yes the trees were becoming a problem and a few big lessons needed to be learnt (especially pertaining to trees near fences ) but as the eternal optimist, and knowing that “the problem is the solution” we started looking at the trees as one of our greatest assets. Our mature trees are now a huge part of our integrated permaculture system.
Here’s a few ways we use our tree resource;
Timber…..with an ever growing number of projects at Fair Harvest, we are using more and more timber from the farm including the poles for our tipi, posts for buildings and more recently cladding for our new camp kitchen.
preparing tipi poles
Eucalyptus Maculata poles support the cafe verandah.
Mulch…… woodchips have become our number one mulch in the orchards and veggie gardens, increasing soil health and water retention.
Hot Water …… the compost shower uses 8 to 10 cubic metres of woodchips to create hot water for a year, see “How to build a compost shower” here.
Fire Wood …..all heating on the farm uses our own firewood, a byproduct from thinning plantation timber.
Animal Fodder…….the cattle graze limited amounts of acacia especially in times when the grass is scarce. Our recent decision to add goats to our system was a direct result of needing an animal that preferred trees to grass, %80 of their diet is acacia branches and they browse on eucalyptus bark for extra fibre.
Bee Fodder……honey has become one of our major products on the farm. With mixed tree species there is almost always something in flower.
Wildlife habitat…..full of birds, insects, reptiles and some small marsupials the diversity and consequently the resilience of the system has increased many fold.
Shade….everywhere we go now there are places we can find shade. Thanks to the trees that were planted in the early days here we can set up our new Nature Based Campground in a beautiful shaded area.
What was once windswept paddocks are now protected areas full of biodiversity.
Nurturing slow growing species
Without the fast growing Acacia to protect them and build soil around them , many of the slower growing, long term species like this carob tree would simply not survive.
Hugelkulture….a fantastic way of sequestering carbon into the soil for garden beds see “How to make a hugelkulture bed” here
Biochar……turning fallen timber, sticks and branches into a uniform sponge like charcoal that can then be soaked in liquid fertilisers and used in gardens and paddocks to increase fertility. Releasing almost no smoke this clean burning biochar cone is a simple, effective low tech tool.
Food…. most of the acacia that we grow is edible to humans when treated correctly. Here we are harvesting Acacia Longafolia to make acacia seed dukkah.
Fibre a huge potential that we haven’t yet dived into.
Employment….the abundance of trees has given rise to a new small enterprise on the farm Woodsmiths Margaret River. Tim Bibby and Gabriel Steel are creating beautiful structures from hand hewn timber and making sure every part of the tree is used.
The lungs of the earth, trees breath in Carbon Dioxide lock up large amounts of carbon in their wood. Their decomposing leaves and branches build the soil, the greatest carbon sink of all.
Thank you to every person who has helped plant and nature trees at Fair Harvest, they are the greatest thing we can leave for future generations and above all the uses we have for them they are magnificent living beings who share this precious planet with us.
And of course a massive thanks to mum and dad who bought the farm in the 80’s and started tree planting, locking up remnant bush and loving the farm..