Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Gardener Goes Away (7): Ingleden Park and Beyond

On our way home from Mildura, we stayed at another farm: Ingleden Park, just outside Griffith. When we reached it, the sun was low.

These pansies welcomed us to our cottage.

The farm is run by Gerardine and Trevor Hill, who kindly took us over it that evening. Water shortages and fluctuating weather have led the Hills to diversify. They run Border-Leicester Merino crosses and South African Meat Merinos, dual-purpose animals that produce wool and are later sold for meat. The Hills also grow a range of cereal crops and canola. They have been laser-grading the farm to improve water management, and explained how this is done and how useful it is. Laser-graded fields can be built to precise dimensions and allow beautifully even irrigation, minimising water use. The old-style farm dams have been filled in; the Hills have installed water tanks which reduce evaporation to zero and ensure the animals' water is always clean.

I had the distinct impression that some ignorant person had told them that it was Really Wrong to grow rice! It turns out that rice gives a substantially better return (figured in dollars per megalitre) than wheat, though wheat uses rather less water. However, when a rice crop is followed by wheat, the residual soil moisture from the rice lowers the water cost of the wheat substantially. Trevor told us of the difficulties of growing rice: cold weather when the rice is flowering induces "flat head", ie, poor fertilisation and therefore heads with no grain inside. And even in good conditions, there is a 30% flat head rate anyway! I was surprised the figure was so high.

The Hills are also keen to preserve the native flora on their farm. They are caretakers of an ancient, endangered Rosewood Tree, a species which seems impossible to propagate from seed (I think it is Alectryon oleifolius; a number of Australian species are called rosewoods). They are planning to apply again for a biosequestration grant for their rocky hill, and are planting more marginal land with indigenous plants. The mob of kangaroos which frequent the hill (and weren't our boys thrilled to see them!) enjoy the extra cover.

This handsome fellow is Jackman, the Murray Grey bull. The other handsome fellows belong to me.

The cottage gardens are full of treasures to admire.

Gerardine has an eye for restful colour combinations, apparent in the interior decorating as well as the cottage gardens. The pots and the chair pick up the different colours on the two New Zealand flax:

An artistic hand has softened the outlines of this shed.

We were fortunate enough to see these sheep being yarded the next morning. They were starting their journey to the supermarket...

We were sorry to leave Ingleden Park, but we were heading for Canberra and home. On our way we stopped to admire Grong Grong station and the silos to the east.

Looking westward you can see a lovely purple haze. This beautiful colour is a common sight in western NSW but unfortunately it is our worst pasture weed, Paterson's Curse, which has no natural predators here. European readers may know this plant as Purple Bugloss (Echium plantagineum). The Hills told us that CSIRO has introduced a beetle that is having a noticeable effect in their area. When the weed isn't controlled, it forms a dense monoculture, as you can see below.

We had a quick look at Junee Station, and I loved this nearby cottage, despite its privet hedge. Another weed!

This is where my digital photos end. There are a few more from our friends' garden in Canberra, but I'm waiting for them to be developed. Time to return to Chookie's Back Yard!


Anonymous said...

Sigh - I get so tired of defending rice as a crop to ignorant people who think its much better that we import it from OS for "environmental" reasons.
Australian rice farmers use water efficiently and get two crops off the water allocation in many instances ...and Australian rice breeders and growers have done wonders in breeding and farming higher-yield-per-megalitre-of-water rice for use in Australian agriculture.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention how much I've enjoyed reading about your trip and seeing all the great pics you took ... thanks!