Tree Huggers Unite

Our guest blogger today is the gorgeous Megan Rowlatt who is a finalist in the National Young Landcare Leader Award and a Young Eco Champion and part of the Clover Hill Dairies eco team .  

Hi my name is Megan Rowlatt, and I hug trees

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Jamberoo Tree Hug

 

No really. I do. All the time. See…

RNP tree hug

Royal National Park Tree Hug

Positano italy tree hug

  Positano Italy Tree Hug

Grand Canyon tree hug

Grand Canyon USA Tree Hug

Growing up in the NSW coastal town of Corrimal with my mum, dad and younger brother, I had a wholesome childhood. Playing with other kids in our street until the street lights came on, climbing trees, playing in the bush along the foothills of the Illawarra escarpment after school, visiting local swimming holes in the national park, and with regular camping trips and family holidays to a range of destinations, this set the foundations for a keen sense of adventure, a desire to travel the world, and a love of our natural environment.

.Nan and pop from my dad’s side resided in a beautiful little country town called Crabbes Creek on the north coast of NSW. I spent many of my first years in the crystal clear creeks with my dad and our family dog and over the years developed an emotional connection to the landscape, particularly rainforests and fresh water bodies. I’m a sucker for a rope swing and a swimming hole.

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1 year old me and my dad in Crabbes Creek, NSW.

Growing up I was a keen bushwalker and still am. I love climbing things, especially mountains (even though I am secretly a little bit scared of heights. But don’t tell anyone. I like to look tough).

Path of the Gods, Amalfi Coast – Italy Austrian Alps Royal National Park

 

Kosciusko National Park NSW (me and my bro), Whistler Mountain Canada, Füssen – Germany

I’ve travelled the world (but not nearly enough of it) and love learning about other cultures, exploring new environments and letting my mind flow over the possibilities of where life will take me next. I love laughing, and I mean laughing hard, and I always surround myself with people who make me smile. But I always come home. There really is no place like home and travelling abroad and living away for a period of time helped to develop a deep appreciation of just how amazing our country is. Sometimes I am so awe-struck by the beauty of our landscape it gives me goose bumps. And when you love something so much and want to make sure it’s there for future generations to enjoy, you get involved.

My home…

My favourite swimming hole, Royal National Park

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Exploring the creek line, Royal National Park

My home (7)Lagoon

 

My local beach at sunset, and local lagoon North Wollongong, NSW

 

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My bike 

 

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And this is the view I am greeted with every time I come home from traveling.

After finishing high school I decided that I wanted to complete a degree in primary teaching figuring the lengthy school holidays would satisfy my desire to travel and allow more flexibility in the amount of time I could take off, but soon after commencing a Bachelor of Education degree I developed a love affair with my science electives. Through my first year of study I was so torn, I was spending more time with my two environmental science electives than my education subjects and things were getting out of control. After breaking down in tears to my dad one night crying “I don’t want to be a primary teacher anymore I want to be an environmental scientist (insert sooky stressed face)” he looked at me and plainly said “why are you crying you weirdo? If that’s what will make you happy, do it” and so I did, and immediately made the leap into Bachelor of Environmental Science degree’s arms at the University of Wollongong. (See ya education, you just weren’t the right one for me).

Having spent all of my life growing up in the Illawarra I began to get itchy feet and was craving a change of scenery so I moved to the Gold Coast in 2003 and transferred to a Bachelor of Science in Ecotourism. Working with people has always been in my nature, I spent many years working in bars and hospitality. Interacting and meeting new people was the biggest attraction for me in this industry so it was only natural that I would enjoy studying a degree which offered opportunities for me to explore the tourism industry as well as develop skills and knowledge in environmental science.

After spending four years away from home and taking advantage of the beautiful warm weather QLD has to offer, I began to miss our coast line (seriously, we really do have the best coastline in the world).

My home (3)

See. It’s pretty amazing. (Me and my best friend)

I returned to Wollongong and was immediately employed as a casual Visitor Services Officer with NPWS working at Royal National Park. Being casual, I had some spare time and I wanted to continue to develop my knowledge around natural resource management (NRM), so I began to volunteer with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) where I started to really become aware of regional environmental issues. A position as Landcare Community Support Officer came up during my time as a volunteer with CVA. Looking at the selection criteria I didn’t think I had a chance but I applied anyway. The next day I had an interview and the day after that I was employed! Almost five years on, I am still loving the role.

Funded by Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority and hosted by Conservation Volunteers Australia, as the Landcare Community Support Officer for the Illawarra region, my role is to assist Landcare volunteers, private landholders and farmers, as well as the wider community to develop skills and knowledge around natural resource management. This includes delivering training to build capacity of volunteers and individuals working in natural areas to carry out quality on-ground activities, engaging new volunteers into Landcare, managing and distributing online resources through newsletters, social media and a range of websites, and applying for a variety of grants to carry out environmental projects in the Illawarra region.

This job couldn’t be more perfect for me. I get to travel around the region and meet and work with loads of wonderful people. I love my volunteers and the groups I get to work with, they are just beautiful. I also am fortunate enough to be able to travel around the state for meetings and forums where I have an opportunity to share my experiences and be inspired by other NRM professionals and volunteers. I find managing online resources and developing resources such as newsletters satisfying as I am able to apply my own creative flair to these products.

Some of the places I get to see for work…

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Bermagui River at sunset NSW

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Little Blowhole, Kiama NSW

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Albion Park NSW

But after attending my very first state Landcare forum in Queanbeyan I was surprised to learn that there was a real lack of young people in the Landcare movement. Many existing groups were of retirement age and no significant new recruitment was occurring. So I started to question why this was the case and why I had been attracted to volunteering and what was lacking that was deterring younger people from joining.

 

In 2009 I set up Illawarra Youth Landcare and run the group in my own time. Illawarra Youth Landcare is a Landcare group exclusive for young people aged between late teens to early thirties. We travel around once a month and visit an existing Landcare or Bushcare group in the Illawarra and assist them with their on-ground work. This gives the host group an opportunity to share their knowledge and skills with a younger generation and volunteers are able to explore the region and develop awareness about the environmental management issues we are facing. In addition to local projects I also organise overnight expeditions to other parts of the state. We partner up with other organisations and look at what other environmental issues persist beyond the Illawarra. These trips allow for volunteers to bond and develop friendships while giving something back to the environment.

To date we have a membership of over 70 people and over 120 followers on Facebook. Volunteers come from all sorts of backgrounds and are motivated for all different reasons to volunteer with the group. The key is flexibility, variety and opportunity for a fun social experience. It’s all about having a good time because at the end of the day, if it’s not enjoyable people are not going to become involved. I wouldn’t. Landcare is just as much about the people as it is the environment, and gen Y are generally time-poor and prioritise study, career and social commitments. So it’s difficult to gain any long term commitment from volunteers of this demographic. So I simply try to cater to this.

Over the last few years we’ve been involved in some amazing projects, a highlight for me was the Hawkesbury Source to Sea paddle we did with Willow Warriors in 2010. On this extremely hot (43 degrees in fact) weekend, we paddled along the Colo River working with a range of different Landcare and Bushcare groups. The weekend was jam packed full of swimming, kayaking, more swimming, rope swings, BBQs and a few beers (which I also love), fishing and oh yeah, some bush regeneration and a whole lot of laughing!

Here’s a short video of our adventures so far…

 

 

In 2011 I was awarded the Be Natural Young Landcare Leader award for NSW and am now a finalist in the National Landcare Awards as the NSW representative under this category. This is a huge achievement and being nominated means a lot. But living in a country as beautiful and diverse as ours, I could never stand back and not be involved in making it a better place for future generations to enjoy the way I did.

You can check out more about Illawarra Youth Landcare at www.illawarrayouthlandcare.com.au

Friend or Foe

In our region almost 90% of prime agricultural land is owned by lifestyle farmers. They represent a major and growing sector in the Australian rural landscape and now play a critical role in the protection of Australia’s natural resources.

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Lifestyle farmers have diverse views, drivers and values. Many are new entrants to farming with little or no background in agriculture, and their knowledge of land management and agriculture tends to be poor. Their local knowledge is also limited and they lack the practical or tacit knowledge that larger farmers have such as good agronomic knowledge, identifying soil types and weeds, applying fertilisers or herbicides, building fences, operating machinery or vaccinating cattle.

Growing concern has been raised over the level of knowledge and skills within the lifestyle farm sector, and the ability of these farmers to manage their property in an ecologically sustainable fashion.

Depending on your point of view and who you mix with lifestyle farmers could be viewed as potential threats or possible allies for maintaining healthy, viable landscapes. I tend to mix with the one’s who care about Australia’s natural resources with a fervent passion and take every opportunity to up skill

In our region we are lucky enough to have the unique personality that is Richard Scarborough. Richard is a knowledge hub on all things natural resource management like no other and he takes every opportunity to share his vast expertise with those who want to learn and there are plenty of lifestyle farmers in our region who want to learn.

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Richard Scarborough at Clover Hill sharing his knowledge of the pros and cons for planting wildlife corridors.

Richard has drawn this diagram to show us the SMART way to plant trees to achieve the best outcomes for the landscape, the native animals and the farm animals.

Concept Plan for bufferring Native Vegetation

In our region Richard on behalf of Landcare Illawarra is conducting the Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest project which means locals have a wide diversity of tree species to pick from. A wide diversity of trees means a variety of food sources for wildlife and that’s a very good thing indeed.

Richard tells me rainforest tress DO NOT need a pioneer canopy and its very important not to use wattles in this capacity. Why you ask?  Well wattles are very fast growing and will compete with the rainforest trees for nutrients and water

So if you want to use Eucalypts and wattles Richard says its important to segregate them and create competition free niches for rainforest trees.

If you follow Richard’s clever strategy  you will have wattle and eucalypts for farm timber, furniture making and fence posts and superb rainforest trees for eternity.

Here is a tip:  Rainforest species will grow faster in response to light competition and its ideal to plant the trees far enough apart to allow slashing with a tractor or ride on mower.

Stages of development

Thanks Richard for sharing.  You are a natural treasure

Also check out this video which showcases some other people who are inspiring their neighbours and pooling their skills for the beneift of the natural resource base and the wider catchment

Local knowledge for local problems

Last Saturday we hosted a field day at the farm on behalf of Landcare Illawarra. The event was organised by the delightful Megan Rowlatt from Conservation Volunteers Australia

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Megan Rowlatt at the farm

It was a great day. The weather was kind. The experts were all there to share their knowledge and the participants engaged and fun to be with.

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Participants were engaged and ready to learn

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On the home run – Picasso Corner Laneway

I shared with the participants the challenges, the mistakes and success stories of our journey to enhance and manage our native vegetation alongside improved farm production outcomes

A range of representatives from organisations such as Landcare Illawarra, Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, Conservation Volunteers, Small Farms Network as well as local project officers, bush regeneration officers, and landholders were be on hand to discuss the range of techniques used and the funding available to landholders to help them work with and manage native vegetation on private land. See details below

I am confident the highlight of the day was the waterfall  tour which took the participants deep into our untouched and pristine rainforest country to one of our many magnificent waterfalls.

Waterfall  

Birds Nest

Clover Hill Rain Forest

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One and a half hours later the hardy participants climbed there way up from the bottom of the rainforest 

If you live in my region (Southern Rivers CMA) here is a short blurb on the natural resource management bodies who can help you ensure healthy landscapes and clean waterways on your farm

Landcare Illawarra

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Richard Scarborough, delivers the Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest project

Landcare Illawarra is a community-based organisation which helps Illawarra residents living in the 3 local government areas of Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama on the NSW South Coast to get involved in a broad range of environmental activities.

The Landcare Illawarra Management Committee assists groups and individuals involved in environmental activities. Its objectives are to:

  • Coordinate information and support for groups and the community involved in environmental activities in the region
  • Support applications for environmental grants
  • Apply for and direct funds to selected activities
  • Provide a connecting voice between the community and the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority
  • Provide a linkage between state government authorities, local councils and the community

The Landcare Illawarra project officer, Richard Scarborough, delivers the Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest project. Part of his role is providing landholders with a range of advice on native vegetation management, tree planting activities and weed management.

Native tube stock is available to landholders in the region who would like to extend the diversity of rainforest or woodland tracts on their properties free of charge as part of this project thanks to funding from the federal government and SRCMA.

For more information visit www.landcareillawarra.org.au or contact Richard Scarborough on 0438 988 387 or email richardscarbrough@dodo.com.au

Small Farms Network

Andrew Britton

Andrew Britton from the Small Farms Network

The Network’s primary role is to organise and deliver training/workshops on sustainable land management, including weed control, pasture and livestock management and the deliver of on-ground incentives to landholders on behalf of the Australian Government, Southern Rivers CMA and the Sydney Catchment Authority. Membership exceeds 800 landholders with weekly email updates keeping all landholders informed about a range of training events, funding opportunities and members activities.

The Small Farms Network currently provides support to all rural landholders in the Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and Shoalhaven Council areas.

For more information visit www.smallfarms.net.au or contact Andrew Britton at abritton@southerncouncils.nsw.gov.au p. 02 4232 3200 m. 0437 134 736

Escarpment to Sea program – Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority

Michael Andrews

Michael Andrews delivers the Escarpment to the Sea program

This program can offer a number of biodiversity conservation services to landholders within priority corridors or for those with remnant patches of rainforest or woodland vegetation present on their properties. Increasing the connectivity of vegetation, especially at the landscape scale, improves the prospects for sustaining long term biodiversity and helps maintain habitats and protects animals that may be affected by the effects of climate change.

For more information about this program visit http://www.southern.cma.nsw.gov.au/htmleditor/documents/Escarpment%20to%20Sea%20flyer.pdf

Contact Michael Andrews at michael.andrews@cma.nsw.gov.au or 02 4224 9715

Conservation Volunteers Australia

Renee

CVA  co-ordinators Renae Riviere and Jess Zickar.

Conservation Volunteers recruits volunteers from Australia, New Zealand and around the world to join important environmental and wildlife conservation projects. Founded in 1982, this non-profit organisation has grown to become the largest practical conservation organisation in Australasia with offices in most capital cities and many regional centres across Australia and New Zealand.

In the Illawarra, Conservation Volunteers has supported a number of landholders in the region to carry out a range of restoration activities including weed removal from creek lines, tree planting and fencing activities to improve biodiversity on private land.

For more information about regional projects contact Wollongong regional manager Renae Riviere at rriviere@conservationvolunteers.com.au or call 02 4228 9246 or for more information about Conservation Volunteers visit www.conservationvolunteers.com.au

Where possible these organisations will work in partnership with each other to deliver a range of projects which aim to deliver the best outcomes for the catchment and the wider community.

Some further great info can be accessed in this brochure “Working with Landcare”

Fruits of the Forest

In partnership with Landcare Illawarra we are opening the farm to members of the community on Saturday June 23rd 2012.

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On hand to answer the community’s questions and conduct guided tours will be a range of representatives from organisations we work with such as Landcare Illawarra, Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, Conservation Volunteers, Small Farms Network as well as local project officers, bush regeneration officers, and landholders to give you a guided tour through the property and discuss the range of techniques used in working with native vegetation on private land.

One of those people will be the fountain of all knowledge on The Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest Project Richard Scarborough who was at the farm today to collect seed from our Yellow Ash and found a plethora of fruits of the forest.

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On the left we have Native Jaffa, some blue gum seed and some orange thorn, with the yellow ash on the right. At the top of the photo is celery wood seed. 

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Also on hand will be the gorgeous Erin who has had an integral role in us playing our part to help increase the genetic diversity of plantings in the Illawarra and potentially increase the level of fruiting of individual species.

If you would like to join us please contact Megan Rowlatt at Landcare Illawarra by email communitysupport@conservationvolunteers.com.au or by phone on 02 4229 7526

The environment is what we eat

Every now and then something that touches your heart happens. This week it was a young lady called Grace Mahon who is in Year 5 at Jamberoo Public School.

Grace entered the prestigious LandLearn NSW public speaking competition at the end of last year and she has been selected as a finalist to compete at the Dubbo Beef Spectacular on March 15.

Grace’s first round speech that caught the judges’ ear was entitled “The Environment is What we Eat. I don’t know Grace but her mother Ros tells me she wanted to focus on something local and did a little bit of internet research and found our farm.

For the finals her topic is ‘Australian vs. Foreign produce. How can we win”.  Winners, runners-up and a rising star will win cash prizes and the overall winner of the day will be invited to deliver their speech at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

With Grace’s permission I have used my favourite pictures of Clover Hill to turn her speech into a video which you can watch here

 

Thank you Grace we feel truly honoured and we are very confident you will give the other finalists a strong run for their money in Dubbo next month

Food is our common Ground

Previous winners and finalists speeches can be found here

Start the day with the perfect cocktail

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This weekend Erin (see Next Gen giving our farm lots of TLC) has bought the troops in to put the finishing touches on our Fountaindale Dam project

Fountaindale Dam is a beautiful area bordering our farm but was sadly suffering from benign neglect and we have taken it upon ourselves to build community partnerships to help rectify this.

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This important community area covers diverse environmental zones including the headwaters of Fountaindale Creek which flows into Minnamurra River and wetlands.

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Red circle indicate area of Fountaindale Dam at Jamberoo

Whilst the dam borders our farm it is actually owned by Kiama Council who built it a long time ago in the hope of supplying Kiama with water. An expensive pipe dream as it turned out.

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Lots of farm generations have had fun playing under the dam wall

Above the dam are a number of hobby and lifestyle farms and many small mountain streams which bisect significant areas of high conservation value remnant rainforest feed into the dam. The hobby and lifestyle farms unfortunately in the main don’t fence their cattle out of the waterways and this has led to considerable degradation of the upper stream beds during the drought.

The region is also habitat for the spotted quoll – a beautiful little native animal (which also has a penchance for chooks)

Spotted quoll

Spotted quoll cute and endangered but don’t let him near your chickens

Zieria Granulata is an endangered shrub found only in the Illawarra region of NSW and also thrives here.

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With the support of Kiama Council and funding from a Community Action Grant and Erin’s expertise we cleared the invasive evil lantana from the banks of the dam.

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Lantana is considered to be one of the ten worst weeds worldwide but it is so entrenched in the Australian landscape its thickets now provide a substitute habitat for a range of animals, including bandicoots, whipbirds, quail, wrens, birdwing butterflies and brush turkeys, where it has replaced the natural understorey vegetation.

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Every wise landholder knows removing Lantana is a waste of time unless cleared areas are revegetated with native trees or pasture immediately and regular maintenance is a must until the vegetation is well established.

Fountaindale Dam Jan 18th 2011  (8)

Once we had cleared the Lantana we sowed ryegrass in the open areas and did spot spraying of secondary weed nasties in the rainforest understory.

Jack's Paddock

We ensure all our paddocks around the dam have a permanent pasture coverage which helps keep the nutrients on the pasture where they should be and not washed into the waterways during major rainfall events. 

This weekend Erin and her eco warriors have planted a further 400 rainforest tree species such as Black plum, bleeding heart and myrtle ebony as part of a new wildlife corridor.

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Petrol powered plant auger makes light work of digging the holes

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We even landscaped the backyard of our friendly neighbourhood wombat

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Michael bravely put his hand up to plant all the Giant Stinging Trees (Dendrocnide excelsa)-

The purpose of these plantings is to strengthen the existing wildlife corridor that links the lower rainforest to the rainforest around the dam. Once the trees in the wildlife corridor are established we will be planting rows of native grasses to act as a nutrient buffer zone between the pastures and the dam. This will ensure minimal farm runoff can get into the community waterways and help reduce the nutrient load on the waterways.

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All the rainforest trees that have been planted here have been provided by Landcare Illawarra as part of the “Illawarra Rainforest and Woodland project”.

This project aims to increase the genetic diversity of plantings in the Illawarra which has the potential to increase the level of fruiting of individual species. This is an important project as it aims to ensure genetic variability in the many species selected. Landcare Illawarra has collected seed from multiple locations to guarantee this.

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Many hands make light work and another great effort from Next Gen Eco Warriors

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Heads up today is Erin’s birthday – you can wish her happy birthday and tell her what a great little eco warrior she is via Twitter @ErinLake_C2G