Trotters, Arabians, Donkeys and Other People - Page 264 - The Horse Forum
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post #2631 of 2657 Old 06-27-2020, 06:48 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Australia
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It's a very busy time for us at the moment, but we did manage to get away for a day to Mt Lindesay last Sunday. This is a big hill about 20 minutes' drive north of Denmark, which we actually hadn't been to in around 10 years. It's a 10km (= 6 mile) return walk with a gradient that slows you down on the way up and accelerates you enormously on the way down (i.e. most of the downhill is not so steep that you have to clamber; and you can stride out gravity-assisted). We did the track in 3 hours 15 minutes, which included somewhere between 45 minutes to 1 hour of rest and photography stops, so just over 2 hours of actual solid walking. The weather was perfect for it: Sunny and cool and crisp. Here's some photos.

The start of the trail involves a downhill to a stream crossing, then a long and gradual climb through beautiful woodlands.

After around 50 minutes of steady walking, you get to the granite section which involves about 15 minutes of steep climbing. This was the first "lookout area" where we stopped for a while to enjoy the scenery:

Behind me to the right you can see the summit of Mt Lindesay - and there's a saddle walk to get to the second, and tallest, monadnock, where we had lunch and did some photography.

It's worth enlarging the next two to see the Kingias (type of long-stemmed grass tree) and the interesting boulders on the skyline:

Brett exuding bonhomie:

Lunch, by the way, was home-made felafels (hello, @egrogan !) with Greek yoghurt and sweet chilli sauce, hazelnut scrolls, and fruit.

My official "top of the mountain" photo:

Walking back down; the saddle section:

A Kingia:

...and back in the woodland section:

We had a really nice outing and hope to do the track again within the next year.

As things are a bit busy, we did our fortnightly grocery shopping on the way home, at the local Denmark independent, small supermarket which is open all week and has better choices ethically than the large supermarket in Albany - more locally produced food, more free-range meat / eggs, less highly packaged rubbish. We're supporting them more often now we walk in Denmark at least once a month - we stop in and get things we need, and if possible, do our "big shop" there.

One little treat we get ourselves if we do this is ice-creams for the road home. You can buy those at a petrol station for $5 each, or you can get the very same ones in a 4-pack from the supermarket for the same price. So we have one each plus two to spare for the freezer at home, except when I'm being a piggy and eating both of mine on the way home, as I did on that trip. I mean, really good-quality actual vanilla ice-cream (not pretend ice-cream), with salted caramel through it and a dark chocolate-macadamia nut covering... at afternoon tea-time...

We're struggling to get away at the moment and will probably only do a small trip to a local beach this weekend, but hopefully we'll get proper hike in again on Thursday and from then on, hopefully back to two major hikes every week...

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post #2632 of 2657 Old 06-30-2020, 12:24 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Australia
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On Friday morning, we did our first "home kill" at our place - a logical thing for reasons including the following:

1) We both eat red meat about 3 times a week.

2) We live on a (mostly) organic farm and run a small amount of beef cattle.

3) The steer in question had a shoulder injury which prevented him going on the truck to the general sales with the rest of his cohort 3 months ago.

4) We run cattle as a grazing operation, not as a lot-feeding operation. While we have a fair bit of tree fodder (tree lucerne, acacia) for lean periods, we don't as a rule buy in hay or lock up paddocks for hay, and our main management strategy for reduced pasture availability is to de-stock, and then re-stock with young animals when the grazing supports it again. This is a low-input and eco-friendly form of agriculture which is basically just ecosystem management for a grassland - you're mimicking basic patterns that happen in natural grasslands in the presence of predators, and you have to do the same job the predators would do in natural ecosystems for dealing with herbivore population excesses before the vegetation base becomes damaged. We're coming up to the mid-winter lull in growth and needed to reduce the population again - as would have happened if this steer had gone with his cohort 3 months ago.

5) We could probably have sold him into open market now as his shoulder had improved (but not healed entirely), but he would have had to go on his own, and that would have been much more stressful than if he'd gone with his cohort. To home kill him was the more humane option.

6) If you're going to eat meat, it's much more eco-friendly to do a home kill than to buy in meat through the standard supply chain - and it also gives you a better quality product, at a lower cost, and with all the associated employment staying in your local community - via your travelling butcher, and your neighbour with the tractor in our case.

The main reason we'd not done this yet is because we actually don't eat much meat, and cows are huge things. But, we bought a 500L freezer recently, and even got it for under $900, with a good warranty, from a locally owned business. This freezer will fill up from this kill and will mean we will not have to buy any beef for at least two years. So we lined up a home kill with a neighbour doing the same, so we can share the butcher's mobile cool room and it's more time-efficient for this guy and we can help each other too.

Anyway, this is what I wrote to a friend at afternoon teabreak on Friday.

It's just after 4pm and I've just sat down after being awake since 4am because I'm always nervous when we kill an animal. We had to put down three horses over the last five years due to age-related illness - one was 32, one 28, one 34. It's the humane thing to do because the alternative is a slow painful death, but it's never easy, just like with a dog.

This is the first time we've killed one of our own beef cattle (on this property, as an adult) and my mind just imagines everything that can go wrong. The animal getting nervous, or even jumping over a fence and running away while the butcher is incensed with your incompetence or poor facilities. Well, none of that was all that likely, and none of that actually happened. Everything went like clockwork. It's quite a juggling act when you've got four animals in a herd and you're trying to kill one without it getting upset about being separated, so I just fed everyone a lot of tree fodder in our small, subdivided utility area - they came running when they heard the lopping saw, they always do - and then it was pretty easy to juggle the three young ones to one side of the dividing fence (just two lines of white electrobraid) while the older one stayed in the original paddock with a huge bucket of feed we got him. I then distracted the younger ones by giving them feed buckets a little way away on the other side. The butcher was just standing near the fence a few metres away from the older steer until he got used to having a stranger around, then I topped up his food bucket again, he returned to eating, and that's when the butcher fired his shot and got a clean hit; the animal had no stress at all and was just minding his own business when it happened.

Just like when we put down horses. I am always grateful to have an excellent marksman - our veterinarian is, and so is this butcher (highly recommended by both the neighbouring families we're friendly with). They just don't shoot until the animal is completely unconcerned and they can get a guaranteed clean shot, and then it's instant lights out. It is so, so important to me that animals don't get stressed out or suffer in any way when this happens, and a huge weight off my shoulders when it goes like this. When I was a kid in Germany, I once was on a pig farm when they were killing a pig, and they didn't get a clean shot, and I will always remember this bleeding pig screaming and galloping around the yard with a hole in the bottom of its face while they chased it down for another shot. It was so horrible, and I never ever want to be responsible for anything like that.

I thanked the butcher for his professionalism and gave him a pail of our honey as a special "tip" for that. Noel (neighbour) had brought his tractor, without which we couldn't have handled this huge animal. All these guys are great, by the way - they all really care that the animals don't suffer and that they have a clean, stress-free death. You'd not believe that a butcher could feel that way but the good ones all do, it's their ethic, and they care about doing it right.

Anyway, so we had a really busy morning. The animal was "dressed out" (skinned and gutted) at our place and then the carcase was transported hanging off the tractor to the neighbour's place, which apparently caused some raised eyebrows with one of the council road maintenance workers who happened to be on a job. There the carcase was quartered and hung into the mobile cool room, and then we had morning tea, and repeated the whole thing with one of Noel's cattle (a younger, smaller one). That also went smoothly. We did a lot of cleanup afterwards of the equipment etc and the beef is now hanging until Monday 10 days from now, which will be cutting-up day.

We've got 326.5kg of dressed-weight quarters hanging in the coolroom from our animal, which as you can see will feed us for over two years - and on top of that enormous amount I also kept the liver, heart, kidneys, tongue, oxtail, various other offcuts and the lungs - I don't think I'm going to eat the lungs but the dog will, I'll cook them up for her. It's important not to waste things. I draw the line at the tripe, I don't keep that.

When I got home I had cleanup to do here: Legs, head, and digestive tract. I folded the skin up and froze it because a friend of mine is going to show me how to make it into a floor rug. I have to defrost and clean the skin on a day I have lots of time; it takes all day to scrape the back of the skin with an animal that size, and then you have to salt it for a few days, and then comes the tanning process.

Anyway, I rolled all the other stuff on two big tarps but they are too heavy to shift by myself so we'll do that when Brett gets home. I decided I'm going to put the guts into large planting holes for two fruit trees (which we still have to dig). The dog claimed the head and has it for now, but we'll put that in one of the holes tomorrow. She's sleeping on the sofa with a full belly after impersonating a hyena earlier during cleanup (I didn't let her near the guts but she was welcome to the head and lower legs). And we'd better get those holes dug and filled again before 4pm tomorrow because then we've got a couple checking into the Airbnb for four days and they probably don't want to see stuff like that, or smell it, farmstay or not.

And just when I'd got everything done that I could for now, it started pouring with rain and I ran and rugged the horses and was so soaking wet after that I went and had a shower and am now relaxing on the sofa typing this with a cup of tea at my elbow.

I'm pretty exhausted, and I think we're going to have a relaxing evening.

More in the next post!
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post #2633 of 2657 Old 06-30-2020, 03:49 AM Thread Starter
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How can a person generally like animals, yet eat them? Vegans find that impossible to answer; I don't. I'm biologically an omnivore - humans and some closely related primates have been hunter-gathering for a long, long time. If a human wants to entirely swear off animal products in their diet, they have to supplement with Vitamin B12 (with pills or injections or from microbial, fungal or seaweed sources) - and women also have to look very closely at getting sufficient iron, which is so much easier for our bodies to assimilate in haem form (via animal products) than in inorganic form. This can be done, and it's fine if that's what people want to do, and it helps take some of the pressure off animal production in a world in which humans are so numerous and such rampant resource consumers that we're in the middle of a mass extinction event and ecosystems are collapsing. Both our numbers and our per capita consumption in the West especially need to come down, and I can see why veganism appeals to some people.

Not overconsuming animal proteins, or anything else, is a good thing - along with family planning so that you're not breeding above replacement rate. However: It shouldn't be imagined that avoiding animal products is always the more ethical choice, either. Soy monocultures aren't environmentally friendly - they're high input, high footprint agriculture that leaves little room for wildlife in the same space - unlike the grazing we do on our farm, which is comparatively low input and low footprint, and the space for which is shared by emus, kangaroos, possums and other native mammals, countless bird and insect species, some reptiles and amphibians.

Let me be 100% clear that I'm against industrial-scale animal production - I think our food animals deserve a decent quality of life in which their needs for companionship, space and exploration are met, and not just their needs for food and shelter. So from that perspective alone, to get rid of factory farming, the current Western overconsumption of meat has to reduce significantly, and human population growth needs to stop, and our numbers ultimately have to decrease again (good luck with that, with the current systems of economics based on eternal growth in what is actually a finite environment with finite resources).

Soy monocultures aren't great - no monoculture is - industrial agriculture isn't great, full stop. It works against nature, and displaces it, instead of working with nature. Militant vegans often turn their noses up at buying soap made from animal fats, imagining they have therefore not impacted on animal life - but palm oil plantations are driving orang-utans to extinction, while bulldozing entire ecosystems off the face of the earth, killing billions of plants, animals, etc. There is no free lunch - everything we consume has an environmental impact - some things more than others, and we need to weigh up carefully. When I buy soap, I'd actually prefer if it was made from the byproducts of the meat industry than to have a vegetable oil based soap - because beef tallow, mutton fat etc are inevitably produced, and should be put to some good use, instead of tossing it out and then clearing land to grow oil crops for making soap from.

It's the same deal with leather - both leather and animal fats are byproducts from meat processing, and it's actually more environmentally friendly to have leather shoes, which are from a biological source and also biodegradable, than to have synthetic shoes, which are made from fossil fuels, non-recyclable, non-biodegradable, and will hang around in landfill for hundreds of years after you die.

I'm interested in working with nature, not against it, and that's why I have ended up living on a largely organic farm trying to grow as much of our own food as possible, while at the same time supplying food for other people off our farm in the form of beef, honey and vegetables. These things are what our land produces well, with comparatively few inputs. This is not cropping land - the soil types and other factors aren't suitable, even if we had a tractor. Before we bought it, the patch of land we are on produced beef. Now it produces honey and vegetables as well.

More here:

As a bonus, this piece of land has 50 hectares of wonderfully biodiverse Australian sclerophyll which my husband and I are managing for conservation - as the prior owner did. While we are here, we will steward this land. The intact wild ecosystems on it will not be bulldozed for agriculture, nor will we engage in legal "passive clearing" by running large amounts of sheep or goats on this block.

More of the biodiversity sanctuary here:

So, I'm stewarding an ecosystem, and not just individual animals/plants/etc. I am part of that ecosystem, and becoming more so the more self-sufficient we are in being able to feed ourselves off this land, while reducing our "imports." And ecosystems operate in certain ways, one of which is the predator-prey relationship. When we introduce animals to an area that have no natural predators there (horses, donkeys, cattle etc), it's our responsibility as humans to make sure the population of these animals stays sustainable. Because animals are a necessary part of a healthy ecosystem, it's important to have farm animals in an organic farming system (I'm not talking about our nature reserve here, but our pasture areas). It's also necessary to cull them if you're breeding them, or if you're not, to cull and replace bought-in animals periodically. Their numbers need to be adjusted to the fluctuating carrying capacity of the land, and the agricultural land has to remain productive in terms of feeding people off-farm, or market forces will produce even more pressure to clear as yet uncleared land, further accelerating our global crisis of mass extinctions and ecosystem collapse.

I was the little girl who cried when I watched wildlife documentaries showing lions eating cute little zebra foals, or gazelles, or wildebeest. I covered my face when the carnivores were hanging off the herbivores' necks and choking the life out of them. But I knew that the lions too had to eat, that they had no choice, and if they didn't then they would starve, and eventually so would the herbivores as their populations boomed and destroyed the very plants they depended on past the ability of those plants to regenerate. So I understood that the beauty of nature also comes hand-in-hand with death, and that death is the main driver of the magnificent diversity in nature.

I read a lot, and was very drawn from little to Native American philosophies about animals and nature. It was from the writings of these people that I learnt you could respect an animal you were going to eat - indeed, that you had to. You're not eating it because it's fair, or because you're somehow "higher up" or more important. You're eating it because you have to eat something. You're not killing it because it's "fun" (although perversely, I know people who think killing animals is fun), but because you are a creature who has to eat.

Kahlil Gibran, once again, wrote some really good thoughts on this.

On Eating and Drinking
Kahlil Gibran - 1883-1931

Then an old man, a keeper of an inn, said, Speak to us of Eating and Drinking.
And he said:
Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.
But since you must kill to eat, and rob the newly born of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship.
And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in man.

When you kill a beast say to him in your heart,
“By the same power that slays you, I too am slain; and I too shall be consumed.
For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand.
Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.”
And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart,
“Your seeds shall live in my body,
And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,
And your fragrance shall be my breath,
And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”

And in the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyards for the winepress, say in your heart,
“I too am a vineyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress,
And like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels.”
And in winter, when you draw the wine, let there be in your heart a song for each cup;
And let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.

I think the idea that anything in us is more pure and innocent than it is in anything else is far-fetched, but this poem does have some very good ideas in it, about understanding that you only live by sustaining yourself on the bodies of other organisms - plants, animals, fungi, etc - and that this isn't cause for thinking yourself high and mighty and entitled, but cause for humility and respect, and for giving back to the life which has given to you.

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Last edited by SueC; 06-30-2020 at 04:07 AM.
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post #2634 of 2657 Old 07-16-2020, 10:54 AM Thread Starter
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Today we did our annual mountain climb in honour of Brett's birthday, which is actually tomorrow, but today was his day off. Considering how tired we've been, it was a minor miracle we managed to drag ourselves out of bed this morning to do this, but we had a fabulous day, and have recovered well.

We headed for Mt Hassell, in the Stirling Ranges - it's always the birthday person's choice. Good choice. The Stirling Ranges had a horrific wildfire in the summer gone by - a very hot fire that ripped through much of the National Park. It's nice to see the flora beginning to recover - Australian sclerophyll is very fire-adapted - but with such an extensive and hot burn, the fauna will be having a hard time with recovery, and a few more extinctions are quite likely as a result unfortunately. This is mostly because for the past 200 years, Aboriginal people have been off the land post-dispossession, and they previously managed the sclerophyll actively by doing small-patchwork, mostly cool burning (Brett and I do exactly this in the on-farm nature reserve we steward), which reduced the fire hazard through reduction of fuel loads as well as the heterogeneity in the landscape creating buffer zones instead of a large area with equally high fuel loads. It also suited the native fauna very well - Tim Flannery (Australian ecologist) reckons one of the main reasons for the horrific rate of mammal extinctions in Australia is the removal of the Aboriginal fire management patterns - and obviously, large-scale clearing of native vegetation for agriculture and "development" - but I digress.

We hope you enjoy the following photos of the climb - and if you want to see the full set, just click on any photo to take you to the Flickr photopage.

The earth was tilting strangely when we got there:

This is Kingia australis, and it's producing seed heads like mad because it's trying to get the next generation into the ground after the fire - now that there's space and light, and nutrients available from the ash:

I'm still smiling because the walk hasn't actually killed me:

Kingias in front of Mt Hassell spire:

Brett with Kingias, on the ridge. These were totally burnt black and what you see is half a year's regrowth of their leaves, plus new seed heads. If you look closely, you can see how the prior leaves were burnt off just below the new leaves - the black "beard" is their remains, burnt short and blackened. Kingia stems grow around 1.5cm a year, so you can work out how old these plants are if I tell you Brett is 173cm tall!

Final ascent:

Brett and Jess back on the ridge on the descent, with Mt Trio to the left in the background (a really nice one to climb in spring because it's bursting with Darwinias and other amazing wildflowers only found in this area).

And for comparison, three photos from the same mountain trail, a few years ago, also mid-winter, before the wildfire:

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post #2635 of 2657 Old 07-16-2020, 11:05 AM
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Happy Birthday to Brett! Your pictures (as usual) are amazing!
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post #2636 of 2657 Old 07-16-2020, 05:33 PM
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FWIW, the Bighorn Fire in the Catalina's eventually hit 120,000 acres, burning much of the mountain to some degree:

This is perfectly normal. It was caused by a lightning strike and they basically protected homes and...not much else. It will probably look bad for a few years but it is part of the natural cycle. Did come across this picture of the firefighting efforts, which impresses this former fighter jock. That's a BIG plane to take into a place like that!

I'm glad the "Fight the fire at any cost" days are past us. It often wasn't effective, and when it was effective, it mostly set us up for more harm in the future. And Happy Birthday to Brett from Arizona!

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post #2637 of 2657 Old 07-16-2020, 09:36 PM Thread Starter
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I do have to point out, @bsms , that the Stirling Range National Park fire, and the East Coast fires in Australia last year, and the ones in Tasmania the year before, were anything BUT normal - they were historically unprecedented. We've never had fires this bad here before - they broke all the record books - and even before colonial records began, because you can tell by studying fossil layers etc etc. Much is known now about the fire history of Australia for the past 30,000+ years, and it was stewarded by the indigenous people here for the duration of that time period, in traditional burning patterns that we replicate on our own nature reserve, and that people are starting to implement again in parts of Australia, especially in areas where Aboriginal people have had their land title returned to them. It is heartbreaking to me to stand in the middle of a razed countryside and think of all the animals that burnt to their deaths there by the millions because the fire was hot, big, fast and covered huge areas, so there was no escape. It's even worse to think of the ones that survived and died slowly of injuries and starvation - and to hear the awful silence in the countryside afterwards. Eventually, a landscape will recover from disaster, but after something like this it will never be the same, and it will wipe out fauna (and flora) species already made vulnerable by ecosystem fragmentation.

The most effective method to prevent this kind of disaster in Australia isn't to send out large airplanes with water and toxic flame retardants in response to emergency fires that are already happening, but to do what the native people did for over 30,000 years, which is to routinely do small cool burns in patchwork patterns, at the right time of the year and not requiring the use of special technology or PPE. We do our burns with rakes, just the two of us, and that mostly works fine, although when you're dealing with long-overdue vegetation, it can get away and then it's best to have water truck backup, and that's been the whole reason the volunteer bushfire brigade formed in Australia after white settlement. The Australian sclerophyll landscapes became far more dangerous when the regular traditional burning ceased after colonisation, and also biodiversity plummeted because of the homogenisation of the landscape, and the more rampant wildfires that resulted. This much we know, and it's well covered in meticulously researched natural history classics like Tim Flannery's The Future Eaters, and can be seen in early paintings and photographs of Australian locations, compared with contemporary photos of the same locations (as well as early accounts of indigenous fire practices as recorded by white settlers).

The main reason it's not being widely done in Australia is because it involves a lot of work by actual human beings on the ground, which can't be replicated with the current agencies' low-personnel approach of setting fires to large tracts of landscape via aeroplane and letting it rip. But on private land, with goodwill and skills, it's very possible, and we are lucky to be now stewarding a private nature reserve whose burning pattern was always modelled, post-white settlement, on Aboriginal people's practices, and it's splendidly biodiverse, and we aim to keep it that way while we are still alive. A lot of people mistakenly think indigenous people did "nothing" with the land. Here in Australia, they were intimately involved in its management to reduce fire risk, and to create good conditions for the game they hunted - something called "firestick farming" by some. And because the sclerophyll and the indigenous people co-evolved for over 30,000 years, they became finely attuned to one another.

The terrible fires here in the past couple of years in particular have started to resurrect more widespread interest in indigenous fire management methods, and considering how we're drying up here in our region and on much of the Eastern seaboard, the interest can't possibly come too soon, because the situation is becoming increasingly dangerous. And now, because of the pandemic, preventative burns by local and interstate bushfire brigades have been down, all while we're having yet another record dry winter and we're dreading the coming summer and the now inevitable infernos.

Brett and I have both lived for decades in the countryside and seen firsthand the ecological deterioration all around us in places that we're intimately familiar with, and it's a huge tragedy. Yes, the earth can come back if civilisation wipes itself out, just as after the demise of the dinosaurs life went on. It's just so utterly unnecessary to keep going down this road of what will ultimately be self-destruction, and one for the Gaia hypothesis.

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post #2638 of 2657 Old 07-16-2020, 10:03 PM
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Happy Birthday Brett!!!
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post #2639 of 2657 Old 07-16-2020, 10:04 PM
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For a big chunk of the 1900s, the US tried to stop all fires. The result was a huge fuel load, and then fires that could not be stopped and that burned overwhelmingly.

I think now the goal is to protect buildings and let at least some fires burn. It depends in part on how the fire started - a fire started by man at an unusual time of the year might burn much hotter than a typical wildfire. In 1979 I did some work for the US Forest Service where the dead limbs were up to 10 feet deep on the forest floor - the result of decades of fire suppression. I think we've moved away from that.

I also offer Mount St. Helen as an example of how quickly a devastated area can recover.

"The spots that were left virtually barren had to overcome a certain amount of "biological inertia," Crisafulli said, with little regrowth in the first few years after the eruption.

"Conditions were just harsh," Crisafulli said.

But gradually, plants and insects colonized these areas, providing food for small animals, which came next and in turn were a food source for larger animals. Ecosystems gradually gained momentum as more and more species were added and ecological spots were filled in.

"Now it's really progressing at year 30," Crisafulli said. "It's a very productive system."
I'm not minimizing the damage done by the Australian fires, just pointing out that life has a way of coming back, often faster than we expect. Maybe different life, or with adjustments, but I have hope Australia's damaged lands will recover better than expected. Assuming, of course, humans don't continue to make the situation worse....

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post #2640 of 2657 Old 07-17-2020, 03:08 AM Thread Starter
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Well, humans are making it worse, unfortunately, in many ways, and honestly, my heart aches looking at the volcanic recolonisation pictures above, because I have more biodiversity in my vegetable garden and that's such a sorry point from which to begin again. If there can be recolonisation of animals from surrounding less damaged areas, that's nice, but humans have already fragmented the remaining natural ecosystems and that makes the whole process of recovery so difficult now. An area that may look green and OK to a casual observer or a non-field-biologist can hold less than 10% of the prior diversity of an area, and many people wouldn't see the problem. A depleted ecosystem is still an ecosystem, and depleted ecosystems can still perform some basic functions, and have basic food chains etc, but it's a pale comparison to what went before, or what you can find in our nature reserve on the farm here, for example.

Volcanic eruptions we can't prevent, but these also tend to wipe out relatively young ecosystems in young geology, which is hugely different from the large-scale incineration of some of the most ancient and biodiverse ecosystems in the world down here in Australia. I grew up in the Australian sclerophyll from age 11 and saw for myself how incredible and species rich it was compared to nature in the geologically-younger Europe I had come from. Living down here is like living in a cathedral, to a person interested in biodiversity - but a cathedral that's increasingly being vandalised and beaten down, as the years go by, just by the way our society here operates. There's so many people trying to help reverse this decline, buying up remnant bushland to preserve, preserving remnant bushland on their own properties, rehabilitating wildlife, adopting Indigenous-style bushland management etc etc etc, but it's like putting your finger in a leaking dyke - it's a drop in the ocean compared to the ongoing human-made extinction crisis which we have not been able to halt, and which our horror summer just gone by has accelerated.

It's so easy and quick to wipe out species, and so incredibly slow for them to evolve and differentiate. I happen to like the biodiversity still to be found in this part of the world, and to want to defend as much as I can from demise - because even though evolution can start all over again, it shouldn't have to just because we can't get our act together. I love what is here now, and I loved many things we have lost forever even in my lifetime, and I think these things actually have a right to be.

When we have guests coming in from Europe to look at the reserve out the back of the house or when they go to National Parks here, they oooh and aaah over the scale of the biodiversity compared to back home. But here, a lot of people take it for granted or just see it as unattractive prickly bushland when they would prefer to live in a humanly engineered park/botanic garden.

Anyway, if any of you ever visit Australia and are interested in this stuff, I'm happy to show you what's there and why it is special and should be protected from extinction. Of course, some people I know don't care about stuff like this - not meaning you, @bsms , or any other regulars here, because I know you enjoy and appreciate nature. It's not a fun topic, anyway - and talking about it is less helpful than doing something about it.


Which right now, I'm not doing - after yesterday's wonderful day, I ended up waking up just one hour after going to sleep with nausea and indigestion that amped up to a proper colic like in a horse. I suspect there's a food intolerance behind that which I have yet to pinpoint - though I have a few suspects. Anyway, I distracted myself from the pain by reading till past 2am, and making some off-topic comments on the palatability of different forms of alcohol (which many of you here have heard from me before) on the music forum where I'm doing a lot of writing since Sunsmart's Cushings got aggravated. He's better, and sometimes I get the impression (because he's getting naughty, which is a good sign) that he might be up to doing some light retirement riding, and that it might actually benefit him, and I've been threatening him with it when he's become playful-on-the-naughty-side. But while I'm not riding, there's less to journal about on a horse forum - even though of course I still do general entries on other things here reasonably regularly.

Last night was disrupted, so I feel flat, and the weather is truly miserable today. I've done some paperwork that needed doing (as useless as this activity actually feels) and the drizzle accelerated into a long downpour, so I couldn't get outside to fix up that bit of plumbing I've got all the parts for. Ah well, thought I, and went back to bed to stay warm, and do a little writing here. The dog saw me head back to bed and left her beloved sofa to lie companionably on the hard floor next to the bed, so I got her some floor pillows and a towel to keep her warm, and to thank her for her company. She only does this when I'm unwell, actually - and so she spent much of the time I had a broken foot two nearly years back curled up by the bedside whenever I was in bed, like some kind of self-appointed nurse. And when I feel better, she'll be the first to encourage me to take some exercise, get in the outdoors etc.


Brett will be on holidays for two weeks (including three weekends) as of tonight, and we have so looked forward to it. Both of us feel as if we've been run over with a steamroller, and have decided to go near no to-do lists whatsoever and just have time off together to do whatever we feel like; and this will probably be a lot of resting, reading, watching movies, making nice food and going hiking when energy permits it (as happened yesterday, for example). It's been over 18 months since we had a proper break; since last year, half Brett's annual leave was taken up with both of us being bedridden with flu, and the other half later in the year we were doing fine-tooth cleaning and work around the grounds so we could open our farmstay that summer, which we did, and which has now bounced back with local travellers since restrictions have eased here: No community transmission detected in WA, the only confirmed COVID-19 is from returned travellers in quarantine, and our hard border closures that helped to achieve it have just been extended in view of the current outbreaks in Melbourne and Sydney - at the moment, this means we're living a semblance of normal life in this state, obviously with social distancing and other precautions that are necessary to prevent a case that accidentally gets in from spreading exponentially...and obviously with no overseas tourism, but people who normally like going overseas are currently really interested in getting to know their own state, so we've seen surprisingly many people at our farmstay.

I've got to say, and I've not said this for many years, that our state government here has done a really fantastic job lately. They have countered the pandemic with rock-solid restrictions and despite the naysaying of the states with community transmission that wanted us to open our borders to them, and this has resulted in a far more normal life for West Australians than what we're seeing in many places in the world, or what is now unfolding in Sydney and Melbourne... the state government in Melbourne was trying very hard to get this right too, but the main weak point over there turned out to be outsourcing the supervision of hotel quarantines for returned travellers to private security firms which broke all sorts of infection control protocols - and also the housing of normal travellers in the same hotels... and that kind of thing can unfortunately conceivably happen anywhere, although it's determined a lot of people not to let the same mistakes happen in their quarantine arrangements.

At the end of the day though, it will be carelessness that will be people's undoing, so I expect eventually we'll get a second wave here too - since it doesn't take much to start one.


We're hoping that the upcoming holiday-at-home will recharge our batteries significantly, so that we don't have to drag ourselves to do stuff so much of the time, and so that I'll be able to get back into cardio sessions on the mountainbike again three times a week, plus Pilates. That's been getting quite good at one stage, but then I got so tired again that I just couldn't face that kind of exertion on top of everything else. It's funny how easy it is to want to go running or bike-riding or rollerblading when you've come home from a day of officework, and how hard it is to do that when you're mostly doing physical work, and much of it outdoors. Then, honestly, I just want to come in and vegetate on the sofa, but I've got to find a way to do regular cardio and Pilates at least 80% of the time (20% lapses allowed) so that it's consistent enough to work properly. One way, of course, would be to do it in the mornings, before work, and I had a bit of success with that. Part of being energetic long-term is actually to prioritise fitness activities. If any of you have got some tricks that have made that easier for you, let me know!

@egrogan , you moved to a farm too - have you found that your energy has become very much absorbed in running that, and tending to your home renovation, compared to pre-farm? Has anything fallen off the calendar for you as a result, and how have you got some of those back, and made the decision to perhaps let others go?

@Knave , how do you do your juggling?

We've had this place ten years now and not been interstate since, and we were regular travellers to Tasmania for bushwalking getaways before that - it's a great place to live, but there's no question that it would probably benefit our enthusiasm for working here, if we could have "spells" completely away from the place once a year. We've tried to compromise by having dedicated recreation days that we don't push ourselves on, and relax at home and/or go hiking on those days, and that's already been very helpful. We're also working on cutting back some of our farm work - by running even less cattle, by buying in hay sometimes instead of cutting tree fodder (which can be really tiring) - of course, there's no round bales to be had in our district at the moment, as we're going into another bad year on the back of three years of drought in this agricultural area. It's a good thing we killed that big steer for our own freezer, because we couldn't have gotten him through the winter lull in pasture growth comfortably, without buying hay in, which in his case wouldn't have been economical anyway.

I'm also not going to be doing much native vegetation planting this year, just to ease off on something and get some time to breathe. The existing planted areas need pruning and maintenance, so we have to re-prioritise what we can do with our time, and be happy with.

On the good news side, the farmstay is a real success and a far better income source than running cattle for us. We're going to only run a handful of steers for the next few years, unless the weather improves dramatically and pasture growth gets back to what used to be normal. We'd rather be understocked and have a bit of slack, than find ourselves overstocked for deteriorating conditions and having to sell to feedlotters, or slave away daily with tree fodder.

I think as a bit of a pep talk to myself, I'm going to sit down and write about the main things we have managed to do, these past ten years - there's been many good things. But, I also want to take action to decrease our workload, so that we don't get exhausted by it - and just have a general good think about what we want to be doing.

Having a proper break from work for two weeks plus three weekends will surely be a good start...

SueC is time travelling.

Last edited by SueC; 07-17-2020 at 03:23 AM.
SueC is online now  

donkeys , free-ranging horses , french trotters , life & the universe , riding standardbreds

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