When we moved to Pomona, it’s fair to say we had a lot to learn about land maintenance. It’s also probably fair to say that the couple who we purchased our property from were, justifiably, nervous about leaving the land in our novice hands...we were, as they called us, ‘green-horned’. There had to be a very intense and steep learning period, just to cover the basics.
Can you identify a frog by its croak? What about a native weed from a native grass? Do you know how much rain is needed to maintain healthy pastures? Or how much it takes before empty watercourses turn into rapids? What do the presence of dragonflies tell you about the health of your dams? How are you at listing off bird species – beyond the safe bets– and knowing where they nest and what they eat?
It’s comforting to know that even the best of them are stumped sometimes. During one of our Landcare visits, the environmentalist was excited to discover an unidentifiable plant species up near the base of the mountain. He went back to the office to do some research and was thrilled to be able to add it to his own mental catalogue of plants once he identified it. He later proudly confessed that after over 25 years in the industry even he is still learning. It was a black bootlace orchid, for anyone keen to know!
Because of the variety that exists in the natural world, there is always something new or different to discover – and then just when you think you are across something – the season changes or a weather system rolls in or new migratory birds flock in and your learning begins all over again.
There is something really rather wonderful about learning as an adult…partly because not everyone gets the opportunity to continue amassing knowledge. For us, it is such a step change from our previous life, where our life had become so routine that we could go weeks without learning anything new or remarkable. Living here, it has become a daily occurrence.
And it isn’t learning for learnings sake…with improved understanding of the flora, fauna, weather and more, our ability to manage the land and promote bio-diversity also increases.
Our brains are in training, and hopefully getting better for it. We look forward to being able to reap the benefits of our new knowledge, and also share some of our new knowledge with our guests!
Here are some fun facts that we have learned:
1. Almost everything on the land is a habitat for some living creature – making sure you inspect everything before you move piles or cut grass is crucial.
2. You can learn to not only accept snakes, but actually quite like them. A python in your shed really helps keep rodents away! On the flip side, if you can't learn to love them, one piece of local advice that we were given (but haven’t taken up) suggests that having a male human urinate around your house perimeter is great for keeping snakes away......!!!
3. Generally speaking, the best grass length is 10cm, depending on what type of grass you have, of course. This is optimal for keeping weeds at bay and surviving dry spells. (And it turns out that grass can actually be really interesting…although perhaps not as a topic for dinner party conversation!).
4. Chickens really do have a pecking order – much to the detriment of our less dominant rooster and poor, long suffering, abused hens! Also, the whole roosters crowing at dawn is nonsense – anytime of night is fair game.