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CHAPTER XV

Completing the Landscape

 

   LANGUAGE, like landscape, must change and grow, and men whowork among trees call them "timber". Although this word originally belongedto the tree that would make a good log or to the sawn-up wood of the log, the Australianland folk at least will find the word timber as familiar as "trees".

   Once the main timber pulling is completed on "Yonaroo",with the timber for fences already taken out, the remainder is pushed up for thefirst burn. Pushing up for the burn and burning is almost invariably a bigger taskthan roping the timber or pushing the timber down. On this job sound reasoning, planningand supervision pay good dividends, through greatly reduced time and money costs.It is important, by providing ground helpers continuously, to keep tractor operatorson the tractor driving the tractor all the time. If a tractor is worth seven poundsan hour someone is paying seven pounds an hour for labour whenever the operator hasto climb down from his machine to do something a ground man should be doing.

   In the operation of pulling down timber with rope or chain andtwo large tractors, two men should usually be employed on the ground. On "Yonaroo"big stumps will on many occasions resist the combined power of the two tractors whenthe rope is close to the bottom of a tree stump. The ground man is the first to seethe hold-up and can signal the tractors to back-up a few feet when the ground manlifts the rope to a higher position on the stump. With the greater leverage now exertedby the tractors the stump may be moved readily. Even so, stumps will on occasiondefeat the pull of the tractors and then the ground man, after signalling the tractoroperators to again back-up, moves the rope to a position where it will ride overthe stump. An occasional big stump left is not serious. The heaping of timber overthe stump may cause it to be burned out later.

   I have had experience in the clearing of country similar tothat described, where, in dry earth conditions, there were many large stumps andenough large trees to cause real hold-ups. A third tractor was then used to followthe rope behind the two tractors that were pulling down, and the third tractor pushedthe tight trees and stumps while the two others pulled. It was well worthwhile. Still,ground men were needed more than ever to supervise and co-ordinate the three powerunits.

   To get back to pushing up for the first burn. A roughly or haphazardlypushed-up heap of timber does not necessarily, or even generally, make for a satisfactoryfirst burn. A good fire must be built. The first point is to burn only what shouldbe burned. The heaps of timber therefore are kept at a suitable distance from thenow very valuable standing tree belts.

   There are two general patterns to pushing up for a burn. Thetimber may be pushed into a series of many suitably-sized heaps or it may be pushedinto long windrows. Well built windrows, when the timber is of a type which burnswell, may be the better of the two methods, but if the windrows are poorly made orthe timber is difficult to burn there is then a lot more pushing-up time needed beforethe second burn than there is for suitably-sized heaps. Windrows should follow theland on the keyline or tree belt pattern with the first push made from the standingtimber line in a downhill direction for seventy or eighty feet. The distance of thebulldozer movement is influenced by the thickness of the timber.

   Big trees will burn only if their trunks are parallel and closetogether. It is then always necessary to preserve the main trees in line along theline of the windrow. "Magpies' nests" of big logs do not burn well.

   The second push is from a distance of sixty to eighty feet belowthe partially-built windrow and pushes the timber together to form the complete windrow.The next windrow should be made similarly but by first pushing uphill from the lowertree belt a distance of sixty to seventy feet, and then pushing from above this lineof the new partly-made windrow downhill from seventy to eighty feet above. If thewindrows are too small they do not burn well.

   Timber should not be pushed into the bottom of a valley. Heavyrain, before burning, may cause difficulties in slow drying-out, and after burningmay wash out some of the soil which was killed below the fire area.

   Pushing into heaps is done to a design based on the principlethat the shorter and more consistent the length of the push the more efficient theoperation. The push is to a selected spot for each heap, keeping the heap the fulldistance of the push from the tree belts. The area around each heap should be representedby a square with sides equal to twice the length of the push. The push distance iskept down to sixty to ninety feet if the timber is thick enough to make a good burningfire. All heaps should be as near as possible of the same size.

   One of the very important rules in any burning operation is"burn the difficult one first"; therefore the area of fallen timber isexamined for the difficult-to-burn stumps or trees, and these, preferably, are pushedup on top of the heaps. Burning is not a matter of throwing a match into a part ofthe heap or windrow and forgetting it. If done wrongly all the easy-to-burn material,which should be burning the hard-to-burn pieces, burns itself out. The tendency inunplanned and unsupervised work is for costs to be considerably increased by theloss of the easy-to-burn material, leaving only hard-to-burn pieces with nothingto help burn them right out.

   When conditions are suitable and the equipment, bulldozers,etc., are available, all the heaps should be lighted from one end of the area, inturn, through to the finish. The fires are left to burn down to a point where, whilethere are still red-hot pieces in them, the main blaze and most of the heat are gone.This burning time may occupy anything from four to twelve or more hours, when theequipment should be ready for the second push-up. Although care is taken there willalways be some soil and earth in the dying fire from the pushing-up operation. Itis preferable then to push the unburned but still alight material to form a new heapjust off the original heap. Ground men at this stage should place the unburned endsof logs and sticks where they will help burn the awkward pieces. Attention shouldalways be concentrated on the big pieces.

   There will be unburned material remaining after the second push-upand burn, but it does not usually pay to use a large bulldozer in a third push-upof this material. It is usually a hand job now and should be done before the firesof the second burn are dead. Again, the ground men concentrate on burning the biggerpieces. A big log can be simply burned in half with smaller wood piled under it.The two halves dragged together will then burn well. Small stuff should not be heapedand burned to "tidy up" while there are larger pieces unburned. Light materialis always easy to burn, but once it is gone the bigger pieces may prevent the workfrom ever looking tidy. How, often does one see evidence of the point of this advice,in partly-burned big stumps and tree trunks lying around paddocks spoiling the appearanceand reducing the usefulness of cleared land and with no small stuff in sight thatwould make a fire to burn them? Supervision of such work in land clearing will pay,as does the proper supervision of other types of work.

   After the burning-off cultivation begins, and the land of thesecondary valley area with its several primary valleys is now made ready for seeding.As the land is poor the method of quickest soil improvement is through a pasturestage. The final "picking-up", or "sticking", as it is oftencalled, of the area may be designed to get rid of only those pieces remaining thatare large enough to handicap cultivation and sowing operations. It is advisable tokeyline cultivate the whole area with the chisel plow as soon as possible, so asto put the soil into a condition when it will absorb evenly a suitable rainfall.Newly-cleared land may need two and sometimes three cultivations to put it in shapefor further work. The final of these cultivations--which are completed one afterthe other with no delay between--follows the Keyline pattern as discussed in ChapterII, "The Aims of Keyline", and mentioned in other references. As the soilis poor with less than an inch of the "colour" of fertility, the cultivationis kept shallow, perhaps two inches, or a little deeper if it is to help clean theland.

   The irrigation area has the highest potential of the clearedarea and should be cleared and cleaned to the extent necessary for this type of land.More complete cleaning is necessary if crops are to be harvested. Once the firstirrigation dam is filled the irrigation paddock alone will often support the startof the new farming and grazing enterprise.

   The final cleaning of a cleared paddock can be time-consumingand a suitable mechanical aid is a big advantage. I generally use a Graham plow withall the clamps and shanks placed on the back beam of the plow, as an effective powerrake. Again the procedure is to examine the paddock for the larger unburned piecesand rake the smaller rubbish up to these to burn the big pieces first. Paddocks needto be well cleaned for such operations as mowing, and odd stumps or pieces may bethrown into a tree belt.

   The water supply is designed from the factors of climate andland shape. Tree clearing, to leave standing timber in the most suitable place, isdesigned from the more permanent factors of the scale of permanence--climate, landshape, water supply and main farm roads. The first permanent building site, usuallyfor a home, is selected. The subdivision fencing proceeds and follows the generalpattern set by the other work.

   The irrigation paddock, whether adequate run-off rain occursearly or not, is suitable for the first sowing of seed. The paddock is fenced asan island paddock after the necessary boundary fencing is finished. If any stockcan be carried on the property during the early clearing they must be excluded nowfrom the irrigation land until it is grassed with the most suitable pastures forthe particular climate of "Yonaroo".

   Sowing methods can follow any of the orthodox means accordingto the equipment available. The Keyline development of the soil of irrigation paddocksis discussed in detail elsewhere.

   The course of the operations may now follow lines that suitthe farmer. The clearing of the rest of the area or yet a second dam in the firstmain subdivision may follow. The second main subdivision of "Yonaroo",the number two secondary valley area, follows the lines of the first work.

   The third and smaller secondary valley area is developed toa similar pattern by similar means. The remaining area, which comprises a seriesof primary valleys flowing to the creek which forms part of the property boundary,is examined and planned as was done on the one side of the first of the two secondaryvalley areas or secondary land units.

   All the features of the land planning of "Yonaroo"have their effect on the ultimate aim of all planned land work--that of improvingthe fertility of the soil and adding stability and permanence to the developing landscape.The planned water supply and farm roads, trees, buildings and subdivision fencesall are aids to these aims, and so now the next stage of the development is throughmethods and techniques concerned directly with the soil itself.

   Keyline soil techniques for "Yonaroo" are employedto develop the soil to carry the best pastures for sheep and cattle. It is to beunderstood that the essential difference between the various orthodox methods ofpasture improvement and those of Keyline is first of all one of approach. Keylineaims at the development of the highest fertility in the soil that is possible andpractical in the particular climatic environment and on the relevant land shape andthe type of earth on which the soil is based. It may be a good soil or a poor soil,or a subsoil of various types such as light, medium or heavy, but it is to be convertedinto a fertile soil.

   The soil is improved in Keyline by exploiting the most appropriatemeans of improving the soil climate within the natural or general climate that affectsit. The improved and improving soil climate is maintained until such time as thesoil is improved far beyond its best natural state. Its new higher fertility thenwill maintain a greatly improved soil climate to further improve the fertility ofthe soil. While every technique of Keyline planning powerfully affects soil climate,the direct and particular means to discuss now are those of cultivation. Cultivationis done with suitable implements on the Keyline pattern for the optimum uniformityof moisture distribution and at the depth that is most suited to the soil's particularclass or stage of development, and at the time of the year or the season when, followingthe cultivation, the best association of the factors of moisture, warmth, and airare likely to obtain in the soil. All the other means of improving pasture growthwhich are employed in general agriculture, and there are many valuable aids, areused only in such a way as to directly improve the soil. The natural fertility factorsthat are influenced in the improving soil climate are mainly those which promotethe more efficient use in the soil of the organic matter available to the soil. Thefactor of prime importance in the development of high-fertility soil for the growingof crops and pastures, is to ensure the rapid incorporation into the soil of thenewly dead roots of the pasture plants themselves and in such a manner that theybecome part of the soil itself.

   This process, together with the resultant more efficient absorptionby the soil of the droppings of stock, constitutes the permanent base of the newfertility.

   The time that is required to improve and consolidate the improvedsoil climate is generally three years. The soil and with it the pasture will continueto improve for some, as yet, indefinite period of time beyond the three years withno further treatment beyond reasonably good management practices.

   The soil and pasture of my own first Keyline-developed areasimproved very satisfactorily during the three years of the development period, andon land where the orthodox methods of pasture improvement had never been successful.During the next three years, with no further work, soil deepened at a more rapidrate than during the three years of Keyline treatment. On some of this land a deliberateattempt was made over a second three-year period to ruin the fertility produced earlierby using cultivations at the wrong time and in wrong weather conditions. There resulteda noticeable deterioration in the light soils of sandstone base. There was also adefinite loss of pasture production in the heavy soil, but a continued improvementin its structure and depth. The light soil, after the soil-destroying treatment,was still better than it had ever been before Keyline treatment. It appears thatwhen soil has had three years of Keyline soil treatment it has greater stabilitythan the best natural similar soil in its climatic area.

   To start off the pasture of the irrigation area of "Yonaroo",the selection of the various species of the pasture for irrigation is of specialimport. Grasses that may be unsatisfactory on a larger grazing paddock basis forsheep, such as cocksfoot, which is sometimes killed out by sheep heavily grazingthe crown, may be an outstanding species in the better-controlled stocking conditionsapplicable on the irrigation land. Special high-value types of white clover whichwill not grow at all, at least not until the soil is greatly improved in moistureholding capacity, in the rain-only area will be of maximum value in the irrigationland. Grasses in quantities that may be too expensive for the initial pasture sowingin the poor soil of the rain-only pasture paddocks may be a good proposition in irrigation.Once the irrigation water is available the expenditure warranted for the rapid establishmentof irrigation pasture may be many times that which is reasonable and economical forthe rain pasture.

   The irrigation drain which was pegged in the planning, shouldbe completely constructed before the cultivation and sowing of the irrigation paddock.In the circumstances applying on the property, the irrigation drain is below thesurface of the land and water is flowed over the land below by controlled "stops"placed in the irrigation drain which cause the water to rise and spill over the lowerlip of the drain.

   There are many methods of sowing pasture seed that are suitablefor the rain-only pasture area. In the soil conditions on "Yonaroo" itwill be necessary to suitably inoculate the various clover and other legume specieswith their appropriate rhizobium and also to sow the seed into the soil with a neutralisedartificial fertiliser, such as a half and half lime/superphosphate mixture. On poorersoil the sowing is much more critical than on good soil. The factor on which successor failure largely depends is the contact in the soil of the neutralised fertiliserwith the seed mixture. Methods as broadcasting seed and fertiliser are not likelyto be so satisfactory on the poor soil.

   It is not a particular province of this book to go into allthe details of pasture establishment and management, which may vary as widely asthere are different soils and climate, but the general relationship of Keyline andorthodox views are set out throughout the book so that they may be applied in theway that will best suit the farmer's own conditions, and which he will probably understandas well or better than anyone else.

   As already stated, the Keyline approach to pasture improvementis aimed primarily at rapidly improving the soil so that pasture is better underall conditions and will remain in a condition of high productiveness and continuousimprovement. Keyline pastures, therefore, do not tend to run out as do most of thepresent improved pastures. The Keyline methods generally involve a special cultivationof the pasture area at a suitable time once each year for three years.

   In the condition on "Yonaroo" the rain pasture maybe sown in the early to late autumn. As soon as the growth is well enough establishedto resist the pull of the stock it should be grazed with a sufficient number to grazeit to a stage when there is still about 20% of the leaf remaining. The paddock isbest grazed on the all-on-all-off principle during the whole of the first twelvemonths, but to obtain best results, attention is required to prevent over grazing.

   After the first year and assuming that autumn is the time ofthe year most suitable for the keyline cultivation, the cultivation should followshortly after the pasture has been eaten off. The depth for the cultivation is ascertainedby direct examination with a spade of the soil below the pasture. The depth of cultivationis then determined from the disclosed depth of the active soil. It may slightly exceedin its depth the depth of the main pasture root zone. If the root zone of any pastureis only two inches down, a very common depth, cultivation is limited generally tothree inches. Only tined implements are used with a maximum tine width of two inchesand with the spacing of the tines set generally at twelve inches apart. Soil conditionsat the time of cultivation may be moist but never wet. Dry conditions are not generallya disadvantage, and when the right time of the year has arrived cultivation neednot wait on rain. Stock are excluded from each area after it is keyline cultivatedfor at least fourteen days and a period of twenty-one to twenty-eight days withoutstock may be advisable where it is practical. Part of a paddock should not be cultivatedand have stock left in the paddock to graze the remainder, since there is alwayssuch a quick response in improved palletability in the keyline-cultivated area thatstock will mostly concentrate on to it within two days, and by avoiding the uncultivatedarea probably damage the pasture of the new work by their intense grazing.

   Keyline cultivation at the end of the first year is designedto promote the best association of moisture, warmth and air in the soil to the fulldepth of the pasture rooting system so that a rapid climax development of the beneficialsoil life takes place. All of the available vegetable matter including the valuabledead pasture root mass is quickly incorporated into the soil and so forms part ofthe soil itself. If the first-year keyline cultivation is affected by drought conditionspreceding and following the work, there will be little, if any, apparent improvementin the soil, and pasture will be temporarily reduced. The nett result could be anactual loss of pasture growth for a period depending on the duration of the drought.The benefit would then be obtained later in the rapid response of both the soil,in the improvement of its fertility, and the pasture when moisture and warmth areagain present. This condition was experienced in 1957 on our new properties. Wherethe second or third of the three yearly keyline cultivations were done there wasa very noticeably lessened loss of pasture, the worst results being only on the firstkeyline cultivation--the one-year-old soil--and in 1956 the soil condition, at thetime set for the keyline cultivation of some areas, was very wet, and in the newareas, soil asphyxiation was evident. It would probably have been better to cancelthe keyline cultivation for all the areas but as our work is continuously experimental,the cultivation proceeded. Rain persisted and kept all the soil overwet right throughto and past the middle of winter. Under these conditions, air which is so obviouslyessential, is excluded by excess water. The desirable balance of moisture, warmthand air in the soil had been destroyed.

   "Yonaroo" may be left now since all the further work,such as the siting, the design and construction of the dams, including the detailsof the lockpipe installation, the design and making of the water conservation andirrigation drains, the cultivation and development of the soil and the place of artificialfertilisers in this work, all are dealt with elsewhere in this book.

   As "Yonaroo" is a ficticious property perhaps theimagination could be called on further, and projected into the future some threeor four years hence, the property would be seen as a rich grazing area carrying itslarge flocks of sheep and smaller numbers of cattle. The trees of the tree belts,which would have within two years started to show the effects of the Keyline-developedsoil above them, have made remarkable growth and have greatly increased foliage.The dams would have been filled and used for irrigation and filled again. So thewalls of the dams are well grassed and the drains are grassed. There is no raw earthto be seen, and the soil below the pasture is dark and deep. Though the homesteadand buildings are new, trees which were left standing when the land was cleared,add to the landscape a vista of the beauty that grows from age.

   A visitor to "Yonaroo", when told of the age of theproperty, would then point out that it could not be so, because the trees of thewide timber belts must have been planted forty years ago at least. This part of thestory has been one of my experiences on "Nevallan", and it may soon repeatitself on our newer property, "Kencarley", at Orange.



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