Secrets of the South Coast

Today saw me visiting Comerong Island and what a gorgeous spot it is

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You can only reach the island by a car ferry that runs from the mainland east of Nowra to Comerong Island, across a stretch of water known locally as The Canal.

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Comerong Island wasn’t always an island. Before European settlement, the Shoalhaven River ran out to sea to the north, but it had a rough entrance. The Crookhaven River to the south was closed by a spit.

Alexander Berry had some men dig a trench between the two rivers. The flow quickly widened the channel to what you see here. The Shoalhaven River entrance is now closed, the river runs past here into the Crookhaven River and out to sea through a wide entrance and Comerong Island was cut off from the mainland as a result.

Originally home to a number of dairy farms

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It now boasts some wonderful holiday houses and a nature reserve.

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Family treasures

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They also tell me it is an excellent fishing spot.

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A child’s paradise

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Wonderful afternoons watching the sun go down

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From this

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to this

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and at the end of the day just a short row to the Shoalhaven Heads pub

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It does have its down side. Make sure you take lots of stuff to tackle the mozzies

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BTW if you are looking to check out the Secrets of the South Coast you cant go past  South Coast Holidays for accommodation and  Foodscape Tours for something special to do. If you are are looking for somewhere great to grab a bite to eat try the Little Blowhole Cafe in Kiama and if eating in is more your style may I suggest you grab a hamper from Local Feast

Special shout out to all the women in my life

Today is International Women’s Day and there are too many women for me to mention who inspire me

So I would just like to simply use this quote to say thank you to the doers and the supporters who light my fire and keep it burning

‘Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the people who get out of shower, and dry off off and do something about it who make a difference’. Patricia Nolan

I would also like to salute our cows

They inspire me. Every day they produce that affordable nutritious nature’s perfect nutrient cocktail that is milk on our farm for 50,000 Australians

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Thank you cows – the queens of the dairy industry

They are an integral part of our team. They are part of our family. They are like a child you want to give them the best possible life you can afford to give

This is why the $ a lire milk marketing campaign upsets me so much as I feel it completely devalues what our cows do and I believe we all need to reflect on what our definitions of value are when thinking about Australian grown products.

I would also like to say a special thank you to the girls on our team who worked so hard on all those record breaking hot days in January to ensure our cows were comfortable and happy. I was there and I was moved by your super human efforts.

Cows under sprinker

Sprinklers in the dairy – says cow comfort on hot days

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Chrissy in the dairy shows the Young Eco Champions how to milk and care for cows on hot days

The girls would like to thank John who arrived with the super cold watermelon just at the right time    

Far too many untold stories

As my readers know I am a proud farmer,and that says a lot as the last thing I ever wanted to do was farm. But until I took on the role of sharing my farming story there was so much about farming beyond the dairy industry that I knew so little about. This is one of the reasons I became a Climate Champion which offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet other like minded farmers from other industries and wow what an awakening and life changing experience that has been. It truly saddens me that I am the only dairy farmer that has been funded to have this opportunity

The National Farmers Federation has done a great job of helping me expand my knowledge by creating this great little resource – Farm Facts. Which the very clever Craig Taylor has summarised in what I believe tells the story innovatively, simply and succinctly.of how are farmers are doing a brilliant job of producing more from less (and that’s the key to successful sustainable  farming in this country) 

    

One of the things that still fascinates me is despite the vastness of our country just how little of it we can grow food on and how precious our natural resources are to sustain our standard of living now and in the future.

Yes we all know Australia is a pretty big place and what most of us don’t realise (including me until recently) is believe it or not over 60% of it is owned, managed and cared for by Australian farmers. To put this into perspective the white bits on the map below are the 40% of Australia that are classified as non agricultural land.Agricultural Land in Australia,

What’s even harder to believe is that only 6% of our agricultural land is suitable for growing food. This means our 134,000 farmers have a huge amount of land between them that doesn’t generate an income   It therefore goes without saying that Australian farmers are at the frontline of delivering environmental outcomes on behalf of the Australian community and they have a very big unpaid gardening/park keeping gig in any man’s language. I was as flabbergasted as most people when I found out these statistics that overall  94% of what farmers own and manage returns them no direct in your pocket benefit. As one of those farmers of which 50% of our farm is pristine rainforest it does however give great satisfaction and warms your heart to see it support diverse native vegetation and wildlife.

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Can you just imagine what its like following the cows home through this – I can tell you its doesn’t get much better

However its very clear as many of our farmers readily admit they don’t have the skillsets nor the time to do all of this gardening alone. Luckily Australia has a whole team of very special professionals called natural resource managers who partner with farmers to help them get the best outcomes for Australia’s scare natural resources.

I wrote parts of this blog post to share this great story about the cotton industry and the exciting young people who eyes are being opened to just what some of our Champion Industries and their great farmers are achieving not just for themselves but for the wider community. You can read it here and be as proud as me   

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Some of our great young farmers and natural resource managers who are working together to care for Australia’s scarce natural resources

So excited the cows are back

I was so excited when I woke up this morning to see the cows were back and wow what a picture they made.

Clover Hill Dairies the cows are back 

Mystical Jamberoo Valley after the rains

For too many eastern seaboard farmers sadly last week’s rain was a calamity. For us it was like we had won lotto. My office window overlooks this paddock and every 14 to 21 days up until 6 months ago I could reliably look out the window and for three mornings straight watch the cows strip graze their way down the hill. It has been so long since the cows were in this paddock I had almost forgotten how magical it was

As you can see this morning they were already well down the hill and there was no strip grazing fences to be seen as there was only enough grass for just one feed from the whole paddock

But there was grass none the less and it wasn’t long before the water trough beckoned and I could see the gorgeous girls up close and personal

the cows are back

Below in the distance you can see our young girls grazing on the fresh new shoots on one of our lease properties

Clover Hill Heifers

The girls wandered off to the midday milking

Clover Hill stroll to the midday milking

and it was all action – men and machines everywhere 

Hive of activity at Clover Hill

Making the most of every opportunity to grow the next round of lushest, sweetest grass paradise can deliver to produce nature’s perfect nutrient cocktail for 50,000 Australians every day  

Bowling Greens

Maybe even in the not too distant future it will look like this again

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and as HT said its just great to feel like you are farming again

Strangling the host

Here in paradise we have some superb, vulnerable and endangered species of native rainforest and woodland trees

There is nothing more spectacular than the strangler fig and this one is just divine.

Figtree Corner

In the rainforest the strangler fig germinates only in the branches of a host tree from the seed deposited by birds. Many roots are sent down and they gradually envelope and strangle the host tree leaving the fig in its place. The root structure of this one is quite compelling isn’t it

We have called this area you guessed it Figtree Corner. The cairn in the front is a tribute to Ron White one of our neighbours who was the chair of our Landcare group at the time of his passing. We are growing the native bleeding heart just in the front of the fig. It is one of Erin’s favourite trees.

Native bleeding heart

The strangler fig trees have adapted by starting their lives off as epiphytes, as at the ground level of the rainforest there is little light and a huge amount of competition for water and nutrients meaning that the majority of plants that start off on the ground have to adapt or die. The strangler fig has adapted by using other trees to get itself into the canopy where it is lighter.Strangler Fig Garvins
Once the strangler fig sprouts roots, it begins to use them to strangle the tree. as well as this it competes with the host tree for nutrients and water, then the strangler fig has a large growth spurt like this one in another spot on the farm, and once it begins to grow leaves they are very large and they tend to cover those of the host plant.

This Morton Bay fig recently lost one of its branches in a storm and it was splitting down the trunk. We thought it would die so one of the neighbours has inserted a “baby’ in a pouch on the trunk which seems to be doing very well

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These trees are making me feel old I can remember when I first spotted the Figtree in the third picture and it was no more that a foot long. Scary 

Got my walking shoes on today

With my 2013 mission to live everyday as if it was your last, today Michael and I joined forces with our good friends Bev and Don to do the magnificent 6km section of the Kiama Coastal Walk from Kiama to Gerringong.

Loves Bay to Werri Beach Lagoon

Bev and Don are doing a walking holiday through Spain and Morocco later in the year so now looked like as good a time as any to get fit.

Loves Bay Kiama Coastal Walk

And before you knew it we were off – looking pretty confident at this stage considering all four of us had major surgery during the year

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Our section of the walk took as on a ‘dramatic, coast-hugging route between Kiama Heights and Werri Lagoon’.

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A popular spot for taking out the tinnie

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Looking back to Kiama

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The boys were keen to set the pace. Check out that work boot tan

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Sadly there were far too many fisherman playing Russian Roulette on the rocks without lifejackets

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and illegal squatters Tut tut

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Kiama’s very own ‘apostle”

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The Kiama coastline at 8am this morning – just divine

Michael Strong

says Michael

A little bit of history for you from the brochure ……….

“The Kiama area was once dominated by a vast rainforest known as the Long Brush. By the time the cedar-getters arrived in the Kiama area in 1815, the local Aboriginal people would have been aware of the impending changes to their way of life. Strange and deadly diseases would have already arrived and the spread of the destruction of the bushland was certainly feared.”

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By the 1820’s Kiama was supplying 9/10ths of the Sydney Cedar Market. The round insert and reference on the map shows the tiny patch of coastline that still supports the rainforest. As you can see from the first picture the cows in the pastures along the coastline would welcome the return of some trees

“As land grants were taken up, the traditional owners were forced from their lands.”

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“Before long the magnificent forests were cleared to provide timber for the new colony, expose the volcanic soils for crops such as potatoes and wheat, and clear the way for dairy farms”*

Kiama Co-op Butter Factory

Kiama Pioneer Butter Factory – Australia’s first Dairy CO-OP opened in 1869

At the half way mark we were all starting to feel pretty confident we were going to make it

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Lynne and Michael Strong

Lynne and Michael looking confident

Bev and Don Coltman

as did Bev and Don

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When you see these magnificent cliffs you know have made it and you can pat yourself on the back.

Werri Beach Lagoon

Before we knew it we had reached Werri Beach Lagoon

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and Kerrie was waiting to take us to breakfast

Sea Vista

and how lucky were we to avoid the queues we saw as we left ?

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after tasting the food. (Which dairy farmer chews his nails????)

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and drinking the milk shakes and lattes

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and taking in the view at the Sea Vista Cafe, Gerringong, we could understand why people were prepared to wait 

Such a special day, so many wonderful natural resources to appreciate and along the walk you may be reminded of days past,

or you may just enjoy the rolling hills, boulder beaches, sea caves, rock platforms and exposed cliffs that create the dramatic scenery and from May to June and September to November, the walk provides great vantage points for whale watching.

Michael Strong and Bev and Don Coltman

Well worth a visit we can guarantee you !!!!!!!

* BTW  You can read the history of dairying in the Illawarra here

Picture Perfect

Recently the farm hosted Rural Press journalist Matt Cawood ( @matt_cawood) and I have discovered he is an awesome photographer ( he did have a pretty impressive camera with him)

You can read Matt’s story in The Land here

So I thought I would take this opportunity to share with the you some of beautiful photographs he took at the farm

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Firstly me with the absolutely adorable Mandelyn Paradise Chime. Chime was a twin who came out backwards and I raised her from the day she born  and she is just so friendly and she just loves having her ears scratched.

Louise

This is Louise bringing the cows home for the midday milking.

Chrissy in the Dairy

This is Chrissy in the pit milking the cows at midday milking. Note the very curious cows in the background 

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The calves in the front paddock. Wow how fantastic is that view

Picasso Cows arboretum

Picasso Corner which 5 local schools revegated in 2008

Desert Pea

The entrance to the dairy

and look at these two divine photos

Bluebird 

How special is this one

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and last but not least our drum art which are hosting some of our endangered or vulnerable  species trees

Barrels

Matt is an very interesting story himself and there are some wonderful insights here “Australian agriculture reporter leaves isolation for London’s meeting of minds” which includes this quote that I like

“Agriculture is the most fundamental human activity. Without it, we don’t have cities, the Internet, cappuccino. And we are quickly realizing that how we conduct agriculture determines the health of the planet.”

All photos by Matt Cawood .Thank you so much Matt  for sending them to me