Saving the beautiful small Purple Pea

Did you know that there’s a rare plan growing right on Mudgee’s doorstep?

The Small Purple Pea, Swainsona recta, is a slender, erect perennial herb growing to 30 cm tall. It flowers from spring to summer, with each flower stalk bearing up to 20 bright purple, pea flowers.

Once widespread in grassland and open woodland of south-eastern Australia, the species is now listed as endangered with only a few scattered populations existing in NSW, the ACT and Victoria.

Over the past 60 years it’s know range has been drastically reduced due to loss and degradation of habitat. Increased grazing pressure, land clearing and competition from invasive weeds have all contributed to the decline of the Small Purple Pea.

The Central Tablelands LLS have launched a project to work with community and local government to protect this beautiful endangered plant. And you can get involved.

The project, funded by the Federal Government’s National Landcare Program, will undertake works to assist in the recovery of Small Purple Pea populations in grassland and woodlands around Mandurama, Wellington and Mudgee. Activities will include identification workshops, on-ground surveys to find new populations, weed control and fire management.

“With the Small Purple Pea being endangered we are lucky in Mudgee to have two viable populations on our doorstep. Its exciting to see these populations being looked after and its great to be able to get the community involved in this project.” said Evelyn Nicholson, Central Tablelands LLS Land Services Officer.

“All community members, regardless of skill level are welcome to come and take part in our surveys in the Avisford reserve or over at Wellington which will hopefully identify new populations of the Pea and help protect it further into the future.” she continued.

The project will kick off with a couple of Small Purple Pea identification workshops and members of the community are invited to attend. Come along and learn more about the plant, it’s threats and how you can assist in the recovery of the species.

The Mudgee ID workshop will be held at the Mudgee Common/Flirtation Hill on Sunday 23 September from 10:30am-1:30pm. For more information or to RSVP contact Evelyn Nicholson on 0427 637 907 or email: evelyn.nicholson@lls.nsw.gov.au.

The Wellington ID Workshop will be held at Burrendong Arboretum on Monday 24 September from 10:30am-1:30pm. For more information or to RSVP contact Libby McIntyre on 0429 019 309 or email: libby.mcintyre@lls.nsw.gov.au.

Lunch and refreshments will be provided at the workshops.

Volunteers are also needed to conduct regional surveys between 17 and 28 September. No skills are necessary as all training will be provided. Contact Evelyn Nicholson to register your interest.

Celebrate biodiversity month

September is Biodiversity Month. But what is biodiversity anyway?

Although in common use today, the origin of the term is relatively recent. Wildlife scientist and conservationist Raymond F. Dasmann, first used ‘biological diversity’ in his 1968 book but it was only in the 1980s that it came into common use in science and environmental policy. The term’s contracted form ‘biodiversity’ first appeared in publication in the late 80’s and since then has achieved widespread usage.

‘Biodiversity’ is often used interchangeably with the well defined terms, species diversity and species richness, but it’s also more than that; referring to the variety and variability of life at all levels of biological organisation – from genes to entire ecosystems – encompassing every living thing that exists on our planet.

Biodiversity month is held in September each year and aims to promote the importance of protecting, conserving and improving biodiversity, both local and global.

As humans, we depend on biodiversity for our food, clothing, health, well-being and enjoyment of life and there’s a lot we can all do to help protect and improve biodiversity.

Whether it’s in our towns and cities, bushland or waterways and oceans, reducing our environmental footprint and being conscious of the impact that our every-day actions and consumer choices have, can have an enormous impact on this intricate and interdependent ‘web of life’.

84% of our plant species are unique to Australia.

Australia is home to between 600,000 and 700,000 species, many unique to this continent. More than three quarters of our plants and mammals, and 45 per cent of our birds species are endemic. And if you include the rich variety of marine life, from the cold southern oceans to the tropics, we are the most biodiverse developed country in the world.

So get out there and enjoy it! The Australian landscape, it’s species and ecosystems are pretty special. Take the time this month to appreciate the unique beauty and character of our local environment.

Methods to predicting rain

Whether it’s based on looking at ants nests, turtles going up hill or if their knee hurts, we all know someone who has a foolproof method for predicting rain.

Watershed Landcare caught up with Dr. Andrew Watkins, Supervisor, Climate Prediction Services with the Bureau of Meteorology to find out how the climate scientists do it.

“The bureau model used for long range outlooks is a dynamical model. It’s based on the physics of the atmosphere, physics of the oceans, physics of land processes, how moisture gets into soil and so on, and also the physics of ice and how that moves.” said Dr. Watkins.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) did not issue long range climate forecasts prior to computers but it was really the arrival of the satellite era in the 1980s, and the vastly increased capacity to collect data, which allowed modelling.

“The physics based models are very complex. Just for the atmosphere we use between 40 and 60 million pieces of data every time we run it.” said Dr. Watkins.

The bulk of the data comes from satellite but also buoys out at sea, weather stations on land, aircraft and ships. The data is put into the models and is then pushed forward with the laws of physics, shuffling the oceans and atmosphere in 3 dimensions.

“We can’t do the physics down to an atomic scale, to see what happens to each individual atom, so at some stage you have to make a compromise at what the physics are on a broad scale.” said Dr. Watkins.

The BOM works in collaboration with CSIRO scientists to determine the important elements within physics to be included, constantly searching for ways to improve the model slightly.

“We just can’t measure the current weather at every single location, we don’t all have a weather station at our front gate. So the models have to make an assumption about what’s going on at a particular location.” said Dr. Watkins.

“If that assumption is even slightly incorrect, the upshot of that is that the small difference between reality and what we’re assuming, over time, will grow and will get to a time where it no longer makes sense.” he continued.

For that reason the seasonal climate outlooks issued by the BOM are probabilistic, which means they state the odds of a given outcome occurring.

“With probabilistic forecasts you always have to remember to turn them the other way, if there is a 60% chance of it being wet that means there is a 40% chance of it being dry. So you have to weigh up the odds there,” said Dr. Watkins, “if a 40% chance of it being dry is a risk you have to take that into account.”

“What we try to do in the BOM is give people odds in their favour, so if you’re using the seasonal outlook over a number of years you’ll be coming out ahead overall. Use it conservatively; look at the odds, look at the money in the bank, look at the current soil moisture conditions, various other things and make decisions based on all those things together.”

Suffocating roadside rubbish

Urban dwellers often take pride in, and some degree of ownership for the nature strip or roadside verge outside their homes. Mowing grass, edging the footpath and rubbish removal are common activities undertaken by the urban community.

Rural landholders view their roadsides in much the same manner. Some even consider the roadsides close to their holdings as an extension of their driveway. The presence of litter amongst the roadside vegetation is no less distasteful to rural dwellers than it is to the urban community. The natural vegetation along our rural roadsides is both beautiful and uniquely Australian. Locals and visitors alike do not wish to see litter on the roadsides, amongst our uniquely Australian landscape.

Roadside litter may also cause injury or death to native animals which use roadside vegetation as habitat. Carelessly discarded containers can trap small mammals or reptiles. The consumption of small plastic items can suffocate any animal. Circular items such as those found on the tamper proof lids of plastic milk bottles can slowly strangle an animal as it grows.

Those driving along our rural roads need to be observant for wildlife or livestock on the roadsides, which may stray onto the road and cause an accident. Rural landholders are often more observant of roadside activity, looking also for damaged fences, escaping livestock, weeds and feral animals. This heightened observational level makes the presence of roadside litter glaringly apparent.

Sometimes rubbish may escape trailers, utes or trucks, but, on inspection, mostly this litter is a result of the disposal of fast food containers, bottles and cans once the contents are consumed. This has become a fact of life in Australia, and will continue to be so until penalties for littering are severe enough to dissuade the activity of casually tossing rubbish out of the car window. Surprisingly 94% of people surveyed identified litter as a major environmental problem!

This pile of rubbish was picked up in 5 minutes along one of our rural roads.

Despite the continued practice of littering there is a lot the community can do. Enjoy the sunshine, get some exercise and clean up our rural roadsides. Take a suitable container, walk one kilometer picking up rubbish as you go, cross the road and continue back to the starting point. Litter attracts litter. The presence of roadside litter gives the impression that the residents do not care about their environment. Therefore, if it bothers you, pick it up. There is no need to wait for Clean Up Australia Day, take action now and show pride in your local area.

Wild dog pests in their sights

Increased levels of damage to livestock have meant pest animal groups are targeting wild dogs as a priority across the region.

There are five pest groups within the Watershed Landcare area, these being the Hargraves Hill End Wild Dog Group, Ilford Running Stream Pest Group, Rylstone District Wild Dog Association, Munghorn Wild Dog Group and the newly formed Piambong Yarrabin Pest Group. These groups are volunteer run and strive to support landholders and residents within their areas to manage wild dogs and other pest animals.

The Groups, and the Mudgee LLS, are the first point of call if landholders have seen wild dogs or suspect they are suffering from livestock attack or losses.

“Communication and reporting are vital.” said Peter Sipek, Chairman of the Munghorn Wild Dog Group.

“We all need to know if our neighbours have seen dogs or they are having problems on their place. If we know where they are we can target our control much more effectively.” he continued.

Coordinated, winter 1080 baiting programs are currently being undertaken. “Again, we encourage all landholders to get involved,” said Peter “the greater the area we cover within a baiting program means fewer pockets where dogs can exist, and it takes longer for them to re-establish in the area. Wild dogs are a community problem and we need everybody to get on board.”

The Munghorn Wild Dog Group’s baiting program will be carried out on Thursday the 30 August and follows on from baiting programs recently carried out in the south and east of the region.

Remote cameras are used extensively across the region, providing a valuable tool pre and post baiting. If dogs continue to be seen on these cameras, or mauled livestock are reported after a landholder has been involved in a baiting program, then sending a trapper to the area can also be considered.

Wild dog detected on a remote camera in the upper Bylong area.

Contact details for the 5 pest groups are:

Hargraves Hill End Wild Dog Group: 0458 733 308

Ilford Running Stream Pest Group: 0427 025 802

Rylstone District Wild Dog Association: 6379 6256

Munghorn Wild Dog Group: 0417 322 436

Piambong Yarrabin Pest Group: 0438 686 369

Watershed Landcare Pest Animal Group Coordinator Beth Greenfield can be contacted for more information on 0438 090 525 or by email beth.greenfield@watershedlandcare.com.au.

It’s a ten year celebration of Green Day

Watershed Landcare has been running Green Day for local school children for 10 years! In this time over five and half thousand children have visited the Mudgee Showground to learn about environmental themes such as biodiversity, energy, waste and water.

On September 16, local schools will again bring their Year 5 and 6 students to experience a day centred around the theme Go WoW or Go Make a Difference War on Waste.

“Our theme is all about taking action. Workshops will provide students with key take-home messages.” said Vivien Howard, Chair of Watershed Landcare.

“We are fortunate to have over 20 speakers and workshop presenters to give children a broad appreciation of the scale of the waste issue, the associated problems and importantly how they can do their bit to tackle the problem.”

“We are excited to have secured Craig Reucassel as our keynote speaker this year, his second series of War on Waste currently airing on ABC TV is a timely backdrop to our event.” she continued.

ABC’s War on Waster presenter, Craig Reucassel, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Green Day.

Green Day takes place on Thursday, 13 September 2018 at Mudgee Showground. This event is supported by Watershed Landcare, Mid-Western Regional Council, Central Tablelands Local Land Services, Moolarben Coal and Wilpinjong Coal and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

To find out more, contact Beth Greenfield on 0438 090 525 or email beth.greenfield@watershedlandcare.com.au.

Is it still a weed at $70/kg

The latest trend in top Sydney restaurants is weeds. Farmers friends, purslane, salsify, wild asparagus and nettle are all on the menu and chefs are willing to pay top dollar.

One man is on a mission to connect farmers, landholders and budding foragers from the Central Tablelands to the catering and restaurant industry of Sydney.

After many years working as a foraging educator Diego Bonetto has established Wildfood Store, a marketplace for edible wild food. The platform and registered company will offer farmers and people in regional NSW the opportunity to subsidise their income by harvesting desirable edible wild plants.

“There is an unrelenting request form the city’s fine dining industry for well presented, clean, atypical edible species.” said Diego.

For example young, good quality tips of farmers friends can fetch $7-8 for a 100 g punnet.

“Farmers have edible weeds growing all over so it is just a matter to train people how to harvest and package and get the produce to the city.” he continued.

Diego has secured some seed funding from the NSW Government via an initiative in collaboration with the Kandos School Of Cultural Adaptation.

The concept is simple. Chefs in the city want clean, well-presented and fresh wild edibles. Diego will train farmers on how to harvest and package the produce and via a distribution company in the city deliver them to the top restaurants in Sydney. The farmers get paid for their efforts and Diego will bring their stories to the city’s tables.

Diego will be running a Foragers Training Workshop in Kandos on Saturday, 11 August from 10am-12:30 pm.

Diego Bonneto will provide training on how to harvest and package desirable wild plants and get the produce to the city.

Diego Bonetto is an Italian artist, father, forager, speaker, keen naturalist and award winning cultural worker based in Sydney. Diego works with chefs, scientists, architects, academics, herbalists, brewers, soap makers, producers, educators and land owners, providing programs, workshops, tours, community engagement strategies and exhibitions. You can read more about Diego on his website: http://www.diegobonetto.com.

Attendance to the workshop is $10, visit https://www.diegobonetto.com/shop/mid-western-foragers-training-aug11 to book your spot.

Can’t make the workshop? Diego will also be available to conduct consultation visits to local properties to identify wild food produce potential during the week of August 6 to 10. Contact Diego on 0411 293 178 or info@diegobonetto.com for more information.

Artful way to capture the right attention

As consumers become increasingly interested in where and how their food and fibre are produced, more and more farmers and producers are turning to direct marketing to sell their wares. But how do you tell your story in the right way to the right people?

Join us for a ‘Visual Storytelling – the art of capturing the right attention’ workshop on Sunday, 1 July and learn how you can use social media to convert your customers into a community.

Watershed Landcare have invited Sophie Hansen, founder and creator of Local is Lovely and My Open Kitchen and 2016 National Rural Woman of the Year, and Annie Herron, painter, sculptor and art teacher who has taught art to all ages for over 40 years and has been exhibiting for 30 years, to present the workshop.

Social media is a visual medium and so great photos are an important part of your storytelling. In this three-hour workshop we will run through how to compose, capture, caption and share images that tell your story in the most engaging way possible.

Creative Afternoon: 2016 National Rural Woman of the Year, Sophie Hansen, will present the Visual Storytelling workshop.

We will cover the basics of composing engaging images, how to shoot them on your smartphone (or camera if you prefer) and how to edit them so they really pop.

Then we’ll move on to the words – how to write and edit captions that tell a story, that engage and motivate your customers so they become community members and your biggest advocates.

This will be a lovely afternoon of creativity, strategy and figuring out how to tell your story in the right way to the right people.

The Visual Storytelling workshop will be held from 12 noon to 4pm on Sunday, 1 July at Augustine Function Centre, 50 George Campbell Drive, Mudgee. All welcome, the workshop is free to attend with lunch provided but please RSVP by Tuesday, 26 June as numbers are strictly limited.

For more information or to RSVP contact Watershed Landcare Coordinator, Claudia Wythes, on 0412 011 064 or email: claudia.wythes@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This event 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.

It’s all in the soil? Improve your patch!

Want to improve mineral cycles, soil fertility, drought resilience, pasture and crop health and productivity on your patch?

Soil and plant function is intrinsically linked to the chemical, physical and biological properties of soil. But did you know that by reintroducing and encouraging the life in your soil you can greatly influence soil chemistry and fertility?

Watershed Landcare have invited grazier, enquiring farmer and soil specialist, Bruce Davison to present a Sustainable Soil Management workshop in June.

Bruce has an advanced diploma of agriculture and advanced diploma of agribusiness management. Bruce has also trained in soil chemistry and plant nutrition, compost and compost tea making, Holistic management and certificate IV in training and assessment. Bruce is self employed as a farmer and soil consultant.

Bruce runs a cattle grazing enterprise on the far south coast of NSW where he has had success with utilising biological farming principles to build nutrients in his soils.

The full day workshop will cover soil basics, understanding soil biology, improving soil quality and growing nutrient dense food, constructing a high nutrient compost heap, building a farm scale worm farm and reading and interpreting your soil test.

The workshop will be held from 9am-5pm on Thursday 28 June at the Lecture Room, Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC). Attendance is $35 for Watershed Landcare members and $45 for non-members and includes morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea.

The course fee also includes the Soilsmith usb which contains a lot of reading and reference material, plus the soil nutrient spreadsheet which is the centrepiece of the workshop as it enables farmers to make their own decisions on soil management.

The Sustainable Soil Management workshop will include a session on reading and interpreting soil reports and calculating amendments using the soil nutrient spreadsheet. We encourage all interested participants to bring along any soil analysis results they have.

Workshop participants are also eligible to undertake a subsidised soil test prior to the event. Please contact us for more information.

To register for the workshop please contact Watershed Landcare Coordinator, Agness Knapik, on 0435 055 439 email: 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.

Paddock trees linking our landscape

The Central Tablelands region is one of the most highly cleared areas of woodland in NSW. Watershed Landcare have been running a project aiming to enhance areas of highly cleared ecosystems by improving linkages between remnant native vegetation.

The Paddock Trees project, supported by Central Tablelands Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government, provided financial assistance to landholders to increase the extent of paddock trees and clusters on the land they manage. Individual landholders were eligible to apply for up to $2,750 in funding for materials or labour to conduct on-ground works that improve vegetation extent and quality.

Six landholders from Lue, Rylstone, Gulgong, Stoney Creek and Mudgee participated in the project, conducting on-ground works to protect existing remnant vegetation and establish new corner, cluster and single paddock tree plantings.

Participating landholders worked with Watershed Landcare’s botanist to select suitable, endemic species to meet their desired project outcomes. At one project site, the planting was designed specifically to aid with the remediation of a heavily eroded, saline area.

As part of the project 8 ha were re-vegetated with over 1000 trees. When mature, these plantings will not only provide connectivity to existing remnant vegetation and act as wildlife corridors but will also provide other valuable ecosystem services such as habitat for pollinators as well as birds and bats beneficial for pest control and maintain and improve soil structure and fertility.

A Paddock Trees and Farm Vegetation Management workshop was also held in April as part of the project. Watershed Landcare invited Dhyan Blore, Principal Consultant at Native Biota Rural Ecology, to share her extensive knowledge in rural vegetation management and the establishment and care of native plants.

The workshop focused on providing landholders with knowledge and practical information to enable them to establish and mange their own native vegetation plantings, covering topics such as species selection for various sites and purposes, tree planting techniques, short term follow up and later management, including thinning and grazing.

Want to find out more about our projects and what we do? Visit our website, www.watershedlandcare.com.au, or contact one of our Coordinators, Claudia Wythes on 0412 011 064 or Agness Knapik on 0435 055 493 or email: info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

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