A spinning spider’s good side

A healthy spider community means a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem.

How do you measure the health of something as diverse and complex as an entire ecosystem?

Ecologists use top-level, or apex, predators as an indirect measure of the biodiversity and functionality of the entire system.

The reasoning is that if those at the top of the food chain are healthy, diverse and resilient then that must also be the case for each link in the chain – other predators, herbivores, plants and algae, insects, soil microbes etc.

But did you know that you can apply the same principles on your own farm?

Spiders can act as indicators of ecosystem health and habitat quality. They play a critical role in agricultural pest management and you are never more than about one metre from a spider as they go about their business of consuming insects and other creepy crawlies. Having a healthy spider community on your farm means you have a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem.

As part of a research project on landholder collaboration for landscape-scale conservation and sustainable production lead by the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales, Watershed Landcare will be hosting a spider monitoring workshop in Mudgee.

We are very lucky to have a special guest speaker coming to the event. Dr Mary Whitehouse is a CSIRO scientist who has spent many years researching spider biodiversity particularly in crops.

Mary will be happy to identify spiders if anyone wishes to bring some along in a glass jar.

We will look at a cost-effective and easy-to-use method of monitoring spiders by using spiders’ webs as a substitute (the Web2Spider guide and supplementary material provided by the Australian Museum).

This workshop will cover:

  • How to identify and monitor spiders on your property
  • How spiders respond to good land management
  • Why working together on spider monitoring is beneficial
  • How to upload the information onto an online collaborative tool
  • How to use this data to make more informed land management decisions

The Mudgee Spider Monitoring workshop will be held on Tuesday Tuesday 8 August, 5:30-8pm in the Burrundulla Room, Mudgee Golf Club.
All welcome. The workshop is free to attend and dinner is included.

Please RSVP for catering purposes by Monday 31 July to Agness Knapik, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0435 055 493 or info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This event is supported by the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and Watershed Landcare and is a part of the Landholder Collaboration Project funded by the NSW Environmental Trust.

More information on the project is available here.

Need help managing serrated tussock?

Watershed Landcare are launching a new project to help landholders manage serrated tussock on their properties.

The project, funded by the Central Tablelands LLS through funding from NSW Catchment Action and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, will deliver a broad range of activities catering to landholders with different experience levels in dealing with serrated tussock.

Serrated tussock

“Building on interest in serrated tussock management in recent months, we have received funds from Central Tablelands LLS to help landholders develop management plans that take in a range of factors that are critical to managing serrated tussock.” said Claudia Wythes, Watershed Landcare Co-ordinator.

“Things like grazing management, pasture species, control options and the scale of the problem all need to be considered.” she continued.

The project will utilise mentoring and support to develop a whole of farm approach to serrated tussock management, rather than focussing on individual control methods or strategies.

Participating landholders will have the opportunity to develop a serrated tussock management plan, tailored to their property, as well as some funding to assist in implementing some of the identified actions.

“A number of workshops will be held over the coming months including identification and grazing management. For those landholders who have been managing serrated tussock for some time, we are keen to trial alternative ideas you may have as well as give you support as it can be a tough battle to fight on your own.” said Ms Wythes.

Want to get involved? Whether you are actively managing serrated tussock on your property, just spotted a few isolated plants or would like some help with identification, we want to hear from you.

For further information or to register your interest contact Claudia Wythes, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0412 011 064 or claudiawythes@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This project is supported by Watershed Landcare through funding from the Central Tablelands LLS from NSW Catchment Action and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Stellar farm field day line up

The Mudgee Small Farm Field Days are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and Watershed Landcare will be there to celebrate with a full program of displays, workshops and lectures.

From livestock handling to backyard beekeeping, there’s something of interest for everyone at Watershed Landcare’s lecture series.

Bruce Maynard, Stress Free Stockmanship, will show you how stockmanship skills can change animal behaviour to aid in weed management and grazing management and how you, and the animals, can have less stress.

Organic, seasonal or local; what is the best way to shop and eat sustainably? Agro-ecologist David Hardwick will de-mystify the modern food system and show how your choices impact on the environment, farmers and your health.

Find out how you can not only run a productive farm but regenerate soils, repair riparian systems and erosion by working with nature’s designs. Adon Bender, Hazelcombe Farm, will cover water-harvesting methodology, minimal and controlled disturbance soil management for perennial, annual and animal systems, soil-food-web-structures and how all these factors interrelate and influence one another.

Author and self-proclaimed ‘beevangelist’, Doug Purdie will be back to show you how keeping bees on a small scale is easy, rewarding and helps the environment by providing pollination and as a bonus you get your own honey! Doug will walk through the types of hive, the basic equipment and the do’s and dont’s of backyard beekeeping.

There will also be talks on free range pig keeping and solar passive design and building with natural materials.

Visit our website for the full program: http://watershedlandcare.com.au/events.

Watershed Landcare will have a selection of locally grown, native tube stock for sale at the Mudgee Small Farm Field Days this weekend.

We will also have plenty of information and displays at the Waterwise Garden demonstration site (L9), drop by and find out what we do, how to get involved in our projects and become a member.

We’ll be running workshops to help you identify serrated tussock from the innocent, native bystanders and teach you how to build your own bee motel.

You can bring along any mystery plants you have growing in your paddock or bushland for identification, see our display of hardy, salt and drought tolerant plants for the Mudgee district, and we will have a selection of locally grown, native tube stock for sale.

These events are supported by Watershed Landcare and are a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Pig out on good information

Ever wanted to have a free range pig or two running around the farm or even taking the next step into full scale pig production?

Watershed Landcare have invited Frank Power and Danielle Littlewood of Power Pork to be a part of our Mudgee Small Farm Field Days lecture series this year.

Frank and Danielle run a pig operation on their Wellington farm, ‘Glenmore’, raising grass fed animals using environmentally sustainable, ethical and low stress methods.

In 2015 they started Power Pork; supplying free range pork, which is processed through a local abattoir and local butcher, direct to customers in the local area and beyond.

To produce a tasty product in an ethical and environmentally responsible fashion the Power Pork menagerie of 20 sows and 2 boars spend 100% of their time in the paddock with a carefully managed grazing regime.

“We love having pigs around. They are just like big cuddly teddy bears. We even have a couple that will come running up to us for a belly scratch” said Danielle.

“Pigs get a bad rap because they are such environmental vandals. I firmly believe that with the right management, you can harness their power for good instead of evil!” she continued.

Frank and Danielle will give an overview of the pigs they run, their management methods and how they get them from the paddock to the plate.

The ‘For the love of pigs and good bacon’ lecture will be on at 1:30pm on Friday 14 and 10am Saturday 15 July in the Straw Bale Lecture Room (L8), Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC).

Watershed Landcare will also have plenty of information and displays at the Waterwise Garden demonstration site (L9), drop by and find out what we do, how to get involved in our projects and become a member.

Come along and see our display of hardy, drought tolerant plants for the Mudgee district, have a chat with members of the Mudgee Bee Group and check out their display hives or join in on one of our workshops on serrated tussock ID or build your own bee motel.

You can bring along any mystery plants you have growing in your paddock or bushland for identification and we will have a selection of locally grown, native tube stock for sale.

These events are supported by Watershed Landcare and are a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Learning to grow your own

Are you interested in growing your own fruit, learning, or refining, grafting skills or preserving heritage fruit varieties?

Watershed Landcare and the Heritage and Rare Fruit Network will be hosting a fruit tree grafting workshop in Mudgee in July.

The Heritage and Rare Fruit Network has been conducting grafting workshops each year since 1990 with the aim of propagating and sharing heritage fruit trees which people of past generations cultivated as part of a more self-reliant lifestyle.

By preserving and propagating many locally adapted fruit trees in the district and sharing these important skills they hope to ensure that the heritage varieties of the past are preserved for future generations.

This is the last year that experienced grafter and lynchpin of the Heritage and Rare Fruit Network, Neil Barraclough, will be coming through the district and we are thrilled to have another opportunity to learn from his extensive knowledge and skills.

The workshop will teach participants grafting skills and cover topics such as orchard design, including techniques for selecting various rootstocks in order to produce trees in a wide range of sizes suited to a range of different situations.

Participants will also take home a free grafted rootstock with fruit scion (growing tip) of their choice.

Through it’s members the Heritage and Rare Fruit Network have access to a very wide range of fruit tree varieties and can provide varieties more suited to people’s needs, or varieties they can’t access anywhere else.

This is a fantastic opportunity to get your hands on some rare fruit varieties, often not available anywhere else.

The workshop will be held from 10am – 1:30pm on Saturday 22 July at Augustine Function Centre. Booking are essential as places are limited.

The cost for the workshop is $40 for Landcare members and $45 for non members and includes morning tea and lunch, grafting talks and demonstrations, and a free grafted fruit tree.

There’ll also be an opportunity to buy additional rootstocks and scions at close to wholesale prices.

For more information or to RSVP contact Agness Knapik, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0435 055 493 or info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Field Days: Lectures and workshops

The Mudgee Small Farm Field Days are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. Watershed Landcare be in attendance with a great program of lectures, workshops and activities for the event.

The Mudgee Small Farm Field Days will be held on Friday 14 and Saturday 15 July at the Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC) Ulan Rd, Mudgee.

Have you ever wondered how to eat sustainably in the modern world? Come along to the Straw Bale lecture room where Agro-Ecologist David Hardwick will de-mystify the modern food system and show how your choices impact on the environment, farmers and your health.

Other lecture topics will cover free range pig farming, Stress Free Stockmanship, the secrets of designing a home that’s warm in winter and cool in summer using natural local products and, how you can implement regenerative agricultural techniques on your farm.

Author and ‘beevangelist’, Doug Purdie, will be back at the Mudgee Small Farm Field Days this year to talk about backyard beekeeping.

We have invited Doug Purdie from The Urban Beehive back this year to talk about how easy it is to keep bees on a small scale and produce your own honey. Doug’s presentation will cover the types of hive, basic equipment and the do and dont’s of backyard beekeeping.

The Mudgee Bee Group will also have a display including different types of hives. Members will be on-hand to answer your questions and share their experiences.

Join us for an active workshop building bee motels and learn about our native pollinators and how to provide habitat for them in your backyard. Hone your skills in spotting the difference between serrated tussock and the innocent native bystanders at a workshop in which you will learn how to identify the key features of these plants.

We will have also have plenty of information and displays at the Waterwise Garden demonstration site, locally grown, native tube stock for sale, and, of course, our beautiful display garden of waterwise and salt tolerant plants for the Mudgee district.

Do you have a mystery plant growing in your paddock or bushland? Bring along a specimen to the Watershed Landcare botanist/grazier Christine McRae to identify (bring a GOOD sample, including leaves/roots/stems/flowers/seeds if possible).

Or just drop by for a chat with other Watershed Landcare members, thaw out by our fire and find out what we do, how to get involved in our projects and become a member.

These events are supported by Watershed Landcare and are a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Help provide homes for pollinators

Pollinators are vital to keep plant species flowering and re-producing. But did you know that many of our food crops such as fruit, wine grapes and vegetables rely on native insects for this service?

Australia has about 1,600 species of native bees, with around 250 to 300 species being found within a 100 kilometre radius of any given area.

Many native pollinators are also predators, feeding on other pest insects. Wasps, hoverflies and shield bugs can reduce the numbers of insect pests in orchards, vineyards and other agricultural crops as well as your ornamental or veggie garden.

Many native pollinators are under threat; land clearing and the extensive use of pesticide and fungicide sprays have removed their food source and their habitat.

With over 75% of flowering plants relying on insect pollinators for reproduction, the decline of their populations is bad news for biodiversity, ecosystems and the security of many of our food sources.

Whether your backyard is a farm, bushland, suburban block or a balcony you can help to support and protect native pollinator populations.

Valuable pollinator habitat can be created by maintaining and enhancing native vegetation, planting lots of flowering plants and minimising or eradicating pesticide and fungicide use.

You can also provide habitat for cavity-nesting insects by bundling together hollow stems from pruning.

Native bee hotels or motels not only provide plenty of nooks and crannies for these beneficial insects to nest in but can be very decorative as well. These can be made in all shapes and sizes, the only limit is your creativity!

If you would like to learn more about our native pollinators and how to provide habitat for them in your backyard, Watershed Landcare will be hosting workshops to help you build your own bee motel at the Mudgee Small Farms Field Days in July.

Weed control during winter

The ideal time to control most weeds is when they are actively growing. This is usually in the warmer months. There are a few that can be controlled at any time of the year.

Two of those significant to this area are Serrated Tussock (Nassella trichotoma) and Cineraria (Cineraria lyratiformis). Both species are, unfortunately, common, and have adaptations for wind dispersal, but can also be spread by water, contaminated fodder, animals and vehicles.

Cineraria

Cinneraria has bright yellow flowers with eight petals which are borne in flat topped clusters at the ends of the branches. Mature leaves are oblong in shape and deeply divided. Juvenile leaves are small and rounded with soft serrations, somewhat similar to geraniums.

Cineraria is an annual plant that can grow and flower through winter. Being an annual, the root system is not very extensive and most plants can be pulled out.

This plant has the ability to produce seeds even if it is pulled out with young buds present. Therefore plants with any sign of a flower or bud must be bagged and later destroyed. At present there are no chemicals registered for Cineraria lyratiformis.

Cineraria is palatable to sheep and can be effectively controlled by confining a number of animals over an infestation. This plant is highly invasive and a dense perennial pasture is the best way of preventing seedling survival.

 

Serrated tussock

Serrated Tussock is a highly invasive perennial grass, which, if left untreated, can take only seven years to dominate a pasture or native grassland. It has virtually no grazing value due to a high fibre and low protein content.

The leaves of Serrated Tussock are very fin

e and when rolled between the index finger and thumb, roll smoothly – like a needle. In Autumn and Winter the leaves are a yellow-green, the tips of older leaves are often bleached by frost.

Isolated Serrated tussock plants can be dug up before flowering and turned upside down so no roots make contact with the soil. Fluproponate is the main chemical used in the control of Serrated Tussock. It is a residual chemical that will stop seedlings emerging for a period of about 2 years. Fluproponate is somewhat selective in that it will only kill certain types of grass. However, many of the grasses susceptible to Fluproponate are highly beneficial.

As with Cineraria a dense perennial pasture is the best way of preventing seedling survival.

Further information for identification of Cineraria can be found on the web, for example http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity/weeds or http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au.

There are also many good resources for Serrated Tussock on the web. However, Serrated Tussock as a grass is a lot more difficult to identify, and more importantly, to distinguish it from other similar species. A hands on approach is recommended. Watershed Landcare will be offering a short session to help landholders identify Serrated Tussock and other similar grasses at the Mudgee Small Farms Field Days in July.

Beekeeping expert back by demand

After a successful and booked our course earlier in the year, the Mudgee Bee Group have invited Bruce White OAM back to deliver another beekeeping course in August.

Renowned beekeeper and industry expert, Bruce White OAM has spent his career in the apiary industry in NSW DPI. He has extensive knowledge of rural beekeeping and frequently delivers courses for Local Land Services and the Amateur Beekeepers Association.

Participants for the February course came from the local area and further afield, including Parkes and the Capertee Valley. In no time at all Mr White had people opening hives, lighting smokers, trapping pollen, finding the ever elusive queens in amongst her thousands of offspring and catching and marking drones.

“The course was fantastic; it covered a broad range of topics and best of all it was hands on. The natural way Bruce handles bees instilled confidence in all of us.” said Mudgee Bee Group President and course participant Beth Greenfield.

“We used the Mudgee Bee Group’s 4 hives to practise on and it was invaluable to hear his opinion about their health and ongoing management.” she continued.

The Mudgee Bee Group will be hosting another course in August and invite novice and experienced beekeepers, as well as people interested in starting up their first hives, to attended.
The 2 day course will cover topics such as protective clothing, hive design, hive management, biosecurity, honey extraction and a whole lot more in a hands-on practical weekend.

The course will be held on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 August at the Straw Bale Shed , Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC).

Cost is $275 per person and includes course notes, lunch and morning tea on both days. A discount rate of $180 is available for Watershed Landcare and Mudgee Bee Group financial members.
Numbers are strictly limited and you must pay in full to secure your spot. If you’d like to participate send an expressions of interest to Claudia Wythes, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0412 011 064 or claudia.wythes@watershedlandcare.com.au.

The Mudgee Bee Group and Watershed Landcare would like to acknowledge support from AREC, for hosting the Mudgee Bee Group hives and providing a venue for meetings and the course.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Winter salad for the livestock

With the onset of shorter days and cooler weather, soil temperatures are dropping too and in our region that means the growth of native pasture slows markedly.

This niche, created by a dormant winter pasture, is being exploited by landholders participating in Watershed Landcare’s ‘Pimp My Pasture’ project to grow a fodder crop.

Participating landholders planted multiple fodder crop species in autumn, utilising a technique where crops are planted directly into the dormant pasture, or Pasture Cropping.

As well as providing livestock feed over the winter feed gap, Pasture Cropping has many advantages over conventional techniques, as ground cover and soil structure are not only maintained but improved.

Using direct drill or zero till seeding equipment is beneficial for poorly structured soil and encourages water infiltration. Utilising multiple species also enhances soil structure and paddock species composition.

Pasture Cropping in less productive paddocks, with fewer perennial species can be used to increase the perennial species in the summer pasture. In paddocks with poorly structured soil, Pasture Cropping can improve soil structure, soil health and water infiltration.

The project paddocks were grazed heavily pre-sowing to remove some of the tall grass and create mulch on the soil surface. The purpose of the heavy graze was to remove weed species and create mulch from the standing grass, by using the animals to lay the grass onto the soil surface. The animals also removed the green leaf material from the plants which, in turn, pruned the plant roots. This removes competition for the, soon to be sown crop, from above ground and below. The dying plant roots also add decaying material and nutrients to the soil.

The animals also add manure and urine, which, when combined with plant litter creates a composting layer on the soil surface.

There are many advantages in using a combination of forage species instead of a single species sown as a monoculture: better quality stock feed (faster fattening, less or no scouring); improvements in soil structure; improvements in soil health; good nutrient cycling; balance soil carbon/nitrogen ratio; attracting beneficial insects.

For this project a mix of annual forage species (oats, vetch, field pea, daikon radish, tillage radish, forage brassica and turnip) was planted. This mix is beneficial for improving soil structure, nutrient cycling, and produces good stock feed.

The multi-species pasture crops are growing well and will be grazed over the coming months. The ‘Pimp My Paddock’ project participants will be monitoring whether this helps to enhance pasture management and increases paddock rest times over winter.

This project is supported by Watershed Landcare through funding from the Central Tablelands Local Land Services and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.