Monday, March 30, 2009

Gippsland Giant Earthworm

We are lucky to have a threatened species in abundance on our little patch - the Gippsland Giant Earthworm. You can read about it here and here. Not much is known about them. To see them in real life means death to the worm as they are very fragile. Unfortunately we have killed a few digging fence posts and holes on the farm. A sad thing, as we are so pleased to have them here.

They are about as thick as your finger, and about a meter long. When we walk around our place, you often hear a gurgling sound (quiet freaky the first time you hear it), that is the worm moving about in the soil. The literature says that they are mostly in gullies, but we have them around our land, both in the gullies and in open areas - even more compacted areas.

They are different from the common earthworms, as they don't seem to live in the top soil, but mine the clay (so you wouldn't find them unless you dig a deep hole). The amazing thing is this:

this photo is of a lump of clay that I found while turning over the vegy garden. Its a hard clod, but through it is a tunnel of the giant earthworm, and in it is a worm casting. Can you see the little grass roots in that? The worm is aerating the heavy clay soil, and fertilizing it, allowing grass and other plants to get their roots right down into the deep soil (where the water is). The worm NEEDS to be wet to live, so their presence suggests water. No wonder the native trees are growing at such a rate - with helpers like the giant earthworm, aerating and watering the subsoil for them!!!

Since little is known about them, there isn't alot known about how farming impacts them. Obviously ploughing is no good, although shallow ploughing wouldn't probably affect them as they are deeper in the soil. Chemicals are a big issues, and they think this is why they are in low numbers - makes sense why there are many of them here - we don't put chemicals on our land - we don't even use herbicide on the ragwort and blackberries - we do it the 'hard' way - by hand and scythe.

Anyway, it would be interesting to see if there are worms on neighbouring properties, since nearly everyone up here puts out superphosphate (or worse) on their land each year - our place has been 'neglected' apparently.... Just horse/alpaca manure here - and plenty of grass rotting back down.... We have dung beetles, while our neighbour had buy some for their place!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Animals on the farm

The horses - Cass (the clydesdale) and Jess (my old standardbred mare).

And the alpacas (who only just returned to the farm after an extended visit to my parent's place for their shearing). Rusty (dark brown) and Tobey (white) have lived here before, but the 2 fawn coloured boys are newbies. They seem to have settled in well. I am spinning up their fleeces, they will be jumpers etc for us.

Its still so dry here... We had a few days of really lovely rain - about 30mm or so, and not in one heavy fall but gentle and over a few days. But we haven't had any rain since, and although its not hot, its been pretty warm, so not much green around here.... Although its done wonders for the vegie garden, and zuchinnis are being formed again (it seems that if the plant is water stressed it drops off the fruit before its big enough to pick.... so now I know why I have never grown many zuchinnis!).

We have also discovered that a pair of Wedge-tail Eagles are nesting on our farm! Its very exciting, but also means that once we get more animals we will have to make sure ducks and chickens will be safe. Not that we mind, they are stunning birds, and its great that they are here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It rained!!

Oh my, we had about 12mm here. We had almost forgotten how it feels! It was good rain too, gentle and all night! Not a moment too soon, we desperately needed it. Its been about 5 weeks that we have had no rain here, and all year since we had a good rain (only 2 rain events for January - both under 10mm). Can you tell I am excited!!

I hope this will help slow down the fires (they are still going), its not enough to put them out though. This fire situation has got me stressed. On bad fire days we can't drive up to our farm, because if there was a fire we don't want to get caught on the road. Yet I want to be there to prepare, and do what is required. I worry for my animals. I hope that the horses will know what to do and where to go if it happened, but they will probably panic. If Brandy were still with us I know she would have led the others to safety, but now Jess is the leader and she isn't clever like that.... Next summer it will be different, we will be there and I wont spend those awful hot days checking out the window for signs of smoke...

The kids are well, full of energy (not sure where they get it from!), and busy little things!