Tending Erosion With Love and Cardboard

Yesterday I tendered some erosion. I added my loving touch to try to heal these scars left by former poor farm management decisions being implemented. I would like to note right from the start that livestock, agriculture processes etc don’t cause erosion – it’s the management decisions behind these processes which cause environments to shift and change and become unhealthy and start to show signs of ill health; for example erosion.

I was going to write “erosion control” as a heading but I decided that was WAY too arrogant. How could I be so presumptuous as to think I can “control” natural processes?

It would be in the same basket as “environmental management” or “natural resource management”. What oxymorons they are! How arrogant of us to even start to consider that we can “control” or “manage” Mother Nature (Pachamama as the South American call the all present spirit of the earth. I like this word very much). I find it curious that universities use these titles for degrees – giving graduates the false belief that they have the right and knowledge which can control natural processes.

( Dictionary definition of manage:
1. To direct or control the use of; handle.
2. a. To exert control over.
b. To make submissive to one’s authority, discipline, or persuasion.
3. To direct the affairs or interests of.
4. To succeed in accomplishing or achieving, especially with difficulty; contrive or arrange.)

 

How I start my erosion tendering is usually with a cup of tea at Revisiting Nature. My friends runs this wonderful online shop in Inverell, NSW. Inverell is my local regional centre with 12,000 people – sizeable by Australian standards!! But they don’t have traffic lights yet. Good move.

There is a huge shuttle (a large container about 1.5m cubed) which all the cardboard from the produce for Revisiting Nature is stored. I spasmodically go and collect it. After my rescue mission I ended up with a ute instead of Zena – my car. So, not to waste a journey I went to collect a pile of cardboard – and have a chat of course. Any excuse for interesting conversation!!

I then took the cardboard for a 100km scenic trip through the country side before I put it to work trying to help stem the flow of water where it is causing active erosion on The GO, the farm I live on.

Lots of photos to help tell the story!!
Big Brutus (ute's registration includes BB and he's strong and muscly and can do all the lifting - hence Brutus!!) carrying all the resources. Under the tarpaulin  is the cardboard. We stopped at a big Grey Box (a eucalypt) and collected some wood - as big as I could lift. My muscles were the limiting factor in this exercise!!

Big Brutus (ute’s registration includes BB and he’s strong and muscly and can do all the lifting – hence Brutus!!) carrying all the resources. Under the tarpaulin is the cardboard. We stopped at a big Grey Box (a type of eucalyptus tree) and collected some wood – as big as I could lift. My muscles were the limiting factor in this exercise!!

Resources exposed - except for my muscles - they were covered up as it was actually quite hot despite being winter!

Resources exposed – except for my muscles which were covered up as it was actually quite hot despite being winter! Sticks/logs and cardboard from organic produce!

The site!! Where to put the cardboard??

 

I have 2 square kms to choose from. The previous land-use decisions created LOTS of opportunities for erosion so I have LOTS of spots to choose from on The GO!! I chose where I did because of the Kurrajong Tree. It is quite a small tree at this stage more or less growing on bedrock!! I decided if I help the erosion near it the soil would ultimately extend down and give the tree more nourishment. This Kurrajong it putting in a mighty effort at helping to stem the erosion tide! so I decided I in turn would try and help it!

The roots of Coralie on the bedrock - somehow surviving and holding lots of  soil in place.

The roots of Coralie on the bedrock – somehow surviving and holding lots of soil in place.

 

I named this tree “Coralie” after a beautiful young French woman who looked after me when I was in France In April watching my son cycle. She is mighty and strong and amazing while being relatively small and physically very feminine. Very French – very feminine as only French women seem to be able to be in their special way. This tree reminded me of Coralie. Persistent with great beauty and lovely character!

I decided to put the cardboard and wood on an area to the left of this photo - but I had lots of area to choose from!! The mighty Kurrajong on the left!

I decided to put the cardboard and wood on an area to the left of this photo – but I had lots of area to choose from!! The trunk of the mighty Coralie the Kurrajong on the left!

On the right is Coralie - the little Kurrajong and the area where I worked. But the whole area is extensive as you can see. Spoilt for choice!

On the right is Coralie – the Kurrajong and the area where I worked. But the whole area is extensive as you can see. Spoilt for choice for erosion tendering!

Taken a few days before early morning - looking back towards Coralie on left. Lots of erosion everywhere!

Taken a few days before in the early morning – looking back towards Coralie on left. Lots of erosion everywhere!

Despite being erosion - it is very, very beautiful!! Perfect soil profile so you can see the special top soil grading down to less fertile soils. And check out the amazing job those tussocks of Coolatai grass along the top of the erosion bank are doing to keep it all together!! They are incredibly important.

Despite being erosion – it is very, very beautiful!! The colours are so spectacular. Perfect soil profile so you can see the special top soil grading down to less fertile substrates. And check out the amazing job those tussocks of Coolatai grass along the top of the erosion bank are doing to keep it all together!! They are incredibly important in erosion tendering.

Brutus is on the right which was the most extreme right of where I put the cardboard and sticks. A little I put in front of me.

Brutus is on the right which was the most extreme right of where I put the cardboard and sticks. It’s actually very deceptive from this angle. JUst behind Brutus there are rills forming into deeper gully erosion which are hidden by the mighty Coolatai Grass which is keeping so much of the area together. I put some cardboard and sticks in front of where this photo was taken.

Looking back up the hill where the run off water comes from which greatly impacts on this erosion. The ground above here has little or no ground cover to help with the infiltration of rainwater or to help topsoil being washed away by rain events.

Looking back up the hill where the run off water comes from which greatly impacts on this erosion. The soil above here has little or no ground cover to help with the infiltration of rainwater or to help topsoil being washed away by rain events. You can see how water can easily flow unimpeded over this open ground taking with it any loose soil, leaf litter, stones, twigs or other organic matter.

The gully erosion which is quite evident when you get close enough. The rills at the top are not too deep but the whole erosion structure forms quite a deep erosion gully with many channels. Note the Coolatai tussocks being the bastions of the surface soil.

The gully erosion which is quite evident when you get close enough. The rills at the top are not too deep but the whole erosion structure forms quite a deep erosion gully with many channels. Note the Coolatai tussocks being the bastions of the surface soil. I love Coolatai grass.

Looking up the erosion gully before putting the cardboard in.

Looking up the erosion gully before putting the cardboard in.

OK - time to get to work. Firstly I stuffed all the big paper sacks full of cardboard. It was kind of fun sitting on the back of the ute, ripping cardboard up. My thoughts went back to my days sitting in a suit in an office in a concrete jungle. My farm clothes are a far cry from the restricting business clothes I used to wear. And flat work boots instead of silly, toe crunching city killer shoes!!

OK – time to get to work. Firstly I stuffed all the big paper sacks full of cardboard. I intentionally make them open so the water and silt will flow into the open bag.  It was kind of fun sitting on the back of the ute, ripping cardboard up. My thoughts went back to my days sitting in a suit in an office in a concrete jungle. My farm clothes are a far cry from the restricting business clothes I used to wear. And flat, comfortable work boots instead of silly, toe crunching city killer shoes!!

This is a paper sack which I have laid in another gully months ago. It has been really effective in catching the silt. I faced the opening towards the direction of the water flow. You can see that the sack is almost embedded in the rill now. A trial for me which seems to have worked before so Im trying it again!

This is a paper sack which I have laid in another gully months ago. It has been really effective in catching the silt. I faced the opening towards the direction of the water flow. You can see that the sack is embedded in the rill now and catching some organic matter. A trial for me which seems to have worked before so Im trying it again!

Stuffing the paper sacks so they are open so as to catch any silt inside them and any Coolatai grass seeds which hopefully will germinate and start the restoration process by initiating groundcover.

Stuffing the paper sacks so they are open so as to catch any silt inside them and any Coolatai grass seeds which hopefully will germinate and start the restoration process by initiating groundcover.

A couple of the papersacks in an erosion gully - the top end of it. I put a large stick on it in the hope of keeping them in place when the water was moving quickly. At the far right hand side there is a 20cm drop - at the start of the bag - hence its placement.

A couple of the papersacks in an erosion gully – the top end of it. I put a large stick on it in the hope of keeping them in place when the water was moving quickly. At the far right hand side there is a 20cm drop – at the start of the bag – hence its placement. I put just cardboard  in the deeper gully further down. There is a 40cm drop after the second bag.

ANother sock at the top of a rill. I wasn't so sure this would stay in place so I put sticks on top AND a barrier across the water flow above it. The barrier above will catch any matter which the water has picked up and gradually form a litter wall -perfect for Coolatai grass to germinate in!!

ANother sock at the top of a rill. I wasn’t so sure this would stay in place so I put sticks on top AND a barrier across the water flow above it. The barrier above will catch any matter which the water has picked up and gradually form a litter wall -perfect for Coolatai grass to germinate in!!

Another view of this combination of a barrier of sticks above cardboard filled paper sacks.

Another view of this combination of a barrier of sticks above cardboard filled paper sacks.

Areas I simply filled with the loose cardboard. The gullies were so deep it was easy to shove the cardboard in there quite tightly. It will slow down the water flow and slowly disintegrate into the landscape - gradually becoming part of the carbon in the landscape.

Areas I simply filled with the loose cardboard. The gullies were so deep it was easy to shove the cardboard in there quite tightly. It will slow down the water flow and slowly disintegrate into the landscape – gradually becoming part of the carbon in the landscape.

 

 

Former application of "Advanced erosion caring" ie placing sticks which are lying around the site across the flow of the water. You can see how the barrier has caught all the leaves and other mobile debris. I used this as an example of success to try in today's efforts.

Former application of “Advanced erosion caring” ie placing sticks which are lying around the site across the flow of the water. You can see how the barrier has caught all the leaves and other mobile debris. I used this as an example of success to try in today’s efforts.

 

 

 

Emulating the previous "Advance technique" of putting whatever sticks I had left across the obvious water flow.

Emulating the previous “Advance technique” of putting whatever sticks I had left across the obvious water flow. Every little bit helps. It seems not enough but from experience just these few gestures of caring makes a huge difference to the water flow.
MOre cardboard in another one of the gullies. Pretty random but as seen in the next photo it makes a difference.

MOre cardboard in another one of the gullies. Pretty random but as seen in the next photo it makes a difference.

Cardboard I have put down before. It is slowly flattening and sinking into the erosion gully catching the silt and definitely slowing the water down.

Cardboard I have put down before. It is slowly flattening and sinking into the erosion gully catching the silt and definitely slowing the water down.

Looking down to Coralie with the stick "flow reducers" in place in the foreground and the sacks and cardboard further down the gully.

Looking down to Coralie with the stick “flow reducers” in place in the foreground and the sacks and cardboard further down the gully.

All in all I felt pretty happy with what Brutus and I had accomplished with a few paper sacks, a heap of cardbaord and some sticks and logs.

Time will tell though. I keep going back and checking my previous erosion tendering sites – and get so excited when I see small changes like this below!!

Love on The GO!! TWO little Coolatai grass seedlings starting to take hold in a barrier I put up last year. Look at the end of the two arrows - they are smalle BUT they exist!!! I love Coolatai grass!!!

Love on The GO!! TWO little Coolatai grass seedlings starting to take hold in a barrier I put up last year. Look at the end of the two arrows – they are small BUT they exist!!! I love Coolatai grass!!!

The two barriers I put above this deep gully are starting to make a change. THis is where the two little grass seedlings are happening!!

The two barriers I put above this deep gully are starting to make a change. THis is where the two little grass seedlings are happening!!

 

Making any change to eroding conditions seems to help!! Somehow, caring helps to heal the scars on the earth. Sometimes I feel the amount of effort I put in is disproportionate to the results. It makes me feel good as by apply these small measures I am helping the earth heal from the ill health inflicted by previous poor human made land “management” decisions.

 

Hasta pronto…… (until soon……)

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