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.

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.

The secret life of your kitty

Ever wondered what your cat gets up when you’re not looking? What if you could keep track of your cat’s whereabouts even when you’re not around? Now is your chance to get a unique insight into your cat’s habits.

Central Tablelands Local Land Services and Mid-Western Regional Council invites you to take part in the Domestic Cat Tracking project.

The project, which involves fitting a small, lightweight GPS tracker to cats and monitoring their movements for 11 days, has already been rolled out in Orange and Lithgow and is now coming to Mudgee.

The Cat Tracker Project aims to find out where cats venture to and to promote awareness of the distances that domestic cats can travel. It will also give a better understanding of the time spent away from home and the location of the cats when they roam.

Cats and their humans from Mudgee, Gulgong, Rylstone and surrounding farms and peri-urban areas are invited to join the program.

The participating cats will wear a small motion-sensored GPS tracker, fitted to a harness for a maximum of 11 days. The GPS device and harness combined weigh less than 50g and the harness is fitted with a a breakaway safety buckle to prevent cat becoming caught or snagged on an object.

The information collected by the GPS trackers will be downloaded and overlayed onto mapping imagery. This will be provided to the cat owner so that they can identify where their cat has travelled.

You can view results from a similar project run in South Australia at: http://www.discoverycircle.org.au/projects/cat-tracker/tracks.

Want to find out more about the project or how to get involved?

An information and registration session will be held on Thursday 18 May at 6pm at the CWA Rooms, 48 Market St, Mudgee.

For more information or to register please contact Julie Reynolds, Central Tablelands LLS Land Services Officer, on 6378 1706 or 0418 150 1676 or by email: julie.reynolds@lls.nsw.gov.au.

Dig deeper into erosion issues

Want to find out more about soil erosion issues, their causes and solutions? Join us on a Field Trip to local properties to look at some common cases in our region.

Watershed Landcare will be hosting two days of soil workshops as part of the ‘Digging Deeper into Watershed Soils’ project, on 11 and 12 May.

The workshops will be held on properties across the region, looking at issues common to the area and exploring how to implement solutions and improve the soil health on your own place.

Due to popular demand, Watershed Landcare has invited Agricultural Ecologist, David Hardwick, back to our region. David has been very well received at previous workshops he has held for Watershed Landcare. An entertaining presenter, he will help land managers dig a little deeper and look below the surface at their soil issues.

Lue Station will host a workshop on Thursday 11 May looking at an incised gully in a 3rd order stream. This poses a landscape scale problem with the surrounding floodplains draining quickly and becoming drier. David will explore solutions to rehydrate the landscape with participants and suggest methods on how to reduce the speed and volume of water runoff.

Participants will also have an opportunity to meet members of Bingman Landcare, find out what they do and how to get involved.

Two differing scenarios will be addressed at the workshop on Friday 12 May.

Our morning session will visit Matt and Emma Kurtz’s property where historical contour banking has been compromised resulting in a concentration of water, with sheet and channel erosion and scalding occurring as the water moves down-slope.

Then follow us out to the lovely Karrabool Olives on Botobolar Road where David Sargeant and Judy Rogers hope to reduce the runoff which is causing sheet and rill erosion through their olive grove. Here participants can get their hands dirty and learn how to construct small rock structures to slow and spread waterflow.

These are catered events so just bring yourself and some protective clothing (hats, boots, rain jacket) and water.

For more information visit our website: www.watershedlandcare.com.au/events and go to the May events.

The field days are free to attend but places are strictly limited. To register please contact Beth Greenfield, Digging Deeper into Watershed Soils project Coordinator, on 0438 090 525 or by email: info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

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

Ag program for rural women

In rural communities, many women have limited training opportunities. But Mudgee’s Women in Ag group aims to ameliorate that by allowing participating Watershed Landcare members to explore topics of interest and build capacity through mentoring, peer support, sharing of knowledge and skills and expert speakers.

In recognition of the shortage of professional development available to women working in agriculture or ag related industries, Watershed Landcare received funding from the Central West LLS to run a personal development program for rural women in 2015.

The program delivered targeted training, mentoring and built support networks to strengthen resilience, provide leadership opportunities and access to training and support services that enhanced confidence and skills through delivery of training workshops, webinars, and a regional forum.

“The feedback from the program was overwhelmingly positive. The women involved learned a lot and had so much fun we decided to keep it going.” said Agness Knapik, Watershed Landcare Coordinator.

“The aim of the Women in Agriculture group is to champion rural women by providing support, mentoring and professional development through vibrant and interactive conversation, and exposure to new ideas, approaches and innovation.” she continued.

The group is now in it’s third year and in that time has covered diverse topics such as social media, leadership and team dynamics, handling stress and building resilience, personal goal setting, conflict resolution, accounting, book keeping and financial training, fermentation, gardening

and has conducted a number of field trips.

The women involved have diverse backgrounds, from grazing and horticulture to running their own food manufacturing plants and natural resource management.

The Women in Ag group meets once a month for a cuppa and a chat and to explore a topic of interest and provides an opportunity to ask questions and share experiences and skills. Specialist speakers are also engaged to run workshops on different topics.

The Women in Ag group meets on the last Wednesday of the month, 9-11am.

This month the group will be exploring the Putta Bucca Wetlands, learning the history of the site, and gaining some bird identification skills.

Want to get involved? Contact Watershed Landcare Co-ordinator, Agness Knapik, on 0435 055 493 or email: info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

The Women in Ag group 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.