Our Gully Grove is an aspiration to use what nature has provided on our back door-step. Slopes are the natural terrain and we've had to adapt around those. Previous to our stewardship, heavy logging has been part of this property's history - along with deliberate burn-offs and some natural bushfires. As you can imagine, it has made an impact on how the natural vegetation has evolved. Fast growing eucalyptus (mainly Spotted gums) are the dominant canopy tree here. During drought conditions, they can excrete a wax from their leaves as self-defence from losing moisture. But then the problem falls to the understory plants, when the waxy leaves hit the ground and make it inhospitable for others to grow.
Others have grown, of course, but only the toughest of the tough. Wattles (native) and Lantana (an exotic weed) are the dominant understory plants here. They play a temporary but important part, as the slopes need something to hold the soil in place. Viewing the impacts of soil erosion over the years, we have the utmost respect for what has survived here. What has survived however, isn't condusive to a "healthy" system which can reduce bushfire risks and withstand years of minimal rainfall.
This is where we can play our biggest part. Our goals for Gully Grove are to maintain a high diversity of native plants, as well as incoporating food production plants. We need to improve fertility in the soil and its water holding capacity. Both are investing in bushfire reduction fuels, because a green belt of healthy and strong plants doesn't burn easily.
Native gardens don't have to mean highly flammable plants that don't need any attention either. In an area that receives high temperatures in summer and minimal rainfall during winter, we need more plants to reduce evaporation by shading one another. We know this stratagy already works because the gullies which cross the landscape, have the most abundant and diverse life within them. Debris gathered after a storm (from water run-off) is where the tenderest, greenest plants grow - in the shade of the gullies.
While we have flattened some land in the beginning for our home and permanent poultry housing, it would be a terrible shame to start dividing the land into more compartments for exclusive farming purposes. The terrain simply isn't meant for flat-land farming. Which is probably why you won't see many large livestock animals in this area. It's rare even to find an orchard for anything other than olives either. What a shame, because the soil is still so full of life. Given half a chance, it could sustain many families with more than just olives, if a new design was explored.
Gully Grove is our attempt at such a design.
I invite you to join us on this journey - to look at where you live and what natural systems are at work for you.