Wow! What a turn around in seasonal conditions! In April we were experiencing here at “The Oasis” the worst hot dry spell in our tenure of this beautiful property. We had experienced such intense heat and an almost complete lack of rainfall since the end of January that meant we had completed a full rotation without growth and were now heading into dangerous territory as we were grazing harder than ever before. Our young stock had all gone as well as some older ewes and the few remaining ewes were endangered – literally! Two days shy of being put in the freezer we picked up useful rain that offered a lifeline for them!
So what has happened since? Rain and yet more rain and still it continues. For readers from southern Australia that may not be that unusual with your winter rainfall dominance. But for us in a predominantly summer rainfall zone this is somewhat unusual. However, of even more interest has been the response of our property to this amazing wet winter.
Typically we do not experience growth in winter which is due to a number of factors. The most limiting is the fact that our granite soils were actually sluiced for alluvial tin about 100 years ago which means that any accumulated fertility of the ages was washed away and so the process has had to start again – this time in the complete absence of both trees and shrubs which help produce leaf litter and cycling of deep minerals. The other effect they have that has been absent is their ability to mollify temperature extremes, and so we have suffered at the hands of those.
These temperature extremes are such that in winter we can experience -15 degree frosts followed by up to 20 degree days with plant sap thus rising and freezing and so totally smashing any growth possibility. This has largely been our experience here although it is changing. Typically we do not experience winter growth of any pasture plants or weeds! This is a factor of poor soil nutrient status and climate.
Interestingly we have experienced limited winter growth through the last two winters now – with this winter being better than last. This has created its own problems however – particularly this year when we started winter with a complete absence of green in the surrounding landscape. Because we have grown pasture through the winter we have been feeding the neighbourhood’s rabbits and so have not benefited fully from the growth potential we could have achieved. Because we maintain roughage it is not possible to shoot the rabbits and so we have decided to rabbit fence our boundary which is occurring as possible around other commitments and a very boggy landscape.
The bogginess is really what prompts me to write this article though. For approximately six weeks now we have been “overflowing” with water. Our property is to all intents and purposes flat with a slight fall to the creek. Our soil has been filled with water to above ground level for the last six weeks! Whilst this water can move through the soil it does not run off both because of the flatness but also the amount of herbage we always maintain – so water movement through our landscape is very slow. I am intensely proud of this but the sheep do not like having constantly wet feet – and so relish the paddocks with rock in them!
I would typically have expected to have lost most of our pastures as a result of this waterlogging – or at the very least have expected them to have become all yellow as a result of lack of oxygen in the root zone. But this has not been the case. Our pastures have maintained a beautiful healthy green colour and keep growing! This is what has prompted me to write. For I hear stories of crops being lost due to water logging and I question whether they are being lost DUE to waterlogging or whether they are being lost due to poor soil structure and then waterlogging?
Because if waterlogging is merely a factor of a full soil profile then our pastures should be dying. But they are not! They are thriving! Is this merely because we are Biodynamic? Because Biodynamics supports right functioning of the farm organism in spite of Nature’s sometimes adversity? Or is it because our Love for our property is sufficient to carry it through this time that could easily be viewed as adverse? But that Love is also an aspect of Biodynamics anyway – not necessarily separate from.
Now I am not comparing our experience with farms that are inundated with river flooding – but rather with those claiming to have waterlogged soils that have hastened development of disease that is affecting their crops or that have had crops die merely as a result of wet feet. And I wonder why they should be so affected when we are not.
I feel that our experience is merely indicating the difference between a landscape imbued with Life Force Energy and the resulting resilience that is thus supported; and a landscape that is bereft of life force energy.