Eaglerise Farm “Ah-ha” Moments

As we go through life, there are moments when we experience the eureka effect where we suddenly realize something that should have been obvious or self explanatory. It is fascinating and self-fulfilling to reflect on these moments and look forward to more. This is one way to gain confidence in our design system.

Early Decision Making

When I was in Third Grade at school (about 8 years old) I had the opportunity to spend some of the summer holidays on a farm. I had never been away from home for any length of time. I was apprehensive. I only vaguely knew these people. I thought about is and finally said to my Mum that I’d like to go. That was it! I was there for every school holiday from then. Tom and Cecily became instrumental in my personal growth and development. They became my “country parents”

If I had said “No”, I would never have studied Agriculture, Organic Farming and Environmental Management. I’d, probably, be an office worker and living a life devoid of the farming experiences.

I was only 8 years old! Life changing decision!

Lesson learnt here – Reflection is a powerful tool to help form your future decisions.

The Thinking Stump

This stump is half way up our ridge, just on the side of the track. It has been dead for many years. Whenever I drove up past it, I always thought, ” I need to grab that and clean the farm up. It’s an eyesore.” However, I was always too lazy to stop on the steep hillside and put it in the ute. This went on for years. I was consistent in my laziness!

Then one day I was driving up and I saw a Superb Fairy Wren sitting on the tip of the stump. I immediately thought, “What an idiot I’ve been!” This little stump has increased the range of the wren into the paddock. How fortunate we are that I was too lazy to “clean up the farm”.

The stump has subsequently fallen over. I stood it up and supported it with a post. This is a constant reminder to “look so you can see.”


You can see from the photos that there is not much habitat around the stump. The increase in range is significant.

This photo was taken January 2020 during the extensive Australian bushfires. You can see the smoke in the background.

Land Ownership or Stewardship?

I described this moment in the introduction where I was fencing out a revegetation area, up the gully, one day. It was steep country and hot. I stopped for a breather and looked across the gully. There, about 30m away was an echidna fossicking around some old logs and rocks, looking for a feed. I thought to myself, “Do I own that echidna?”, of course not! Then I pondered whether I owned the ants the echidna was harvesting, or the rock around where it was walking. I concluded that I owned nothing. It was a revelation and has influenced my property management and design even more, ever since. We are not owners. We are simply elements within the ecosystem that we inhabit. We are higher order predators and, as such, our ecological niche includes the responsibility and obligation to maintain the system around us.

It was all to obvious in hindsight. I had been contemplating the idea of land ownership for some time, but, this “Aha moment” clarified my thoughts.

Lesson learnt here – Always take time to think things through. Patience and contemplation are great tools to use.

Where’s “away”?

It is pretty easy to understand  the “away” concept. When someone says that something  (e.g. plastic) is “OK” and they accept that at the end of its useful life that they will throw it “away.” I have always responded that “There is no such place as “away”! It makes a good point and gets people thinking about their waste stream.

I was content with these discussions. In fact, I was a bit smug about it. I was writing the Eaglerise Farm Philosophies and got to the section concerning waste and recycling. I had an “Aha moment” when I realized that recycling meant that we were giving our plastic away! This meant we had to take responsibility for the plastic we were putting into the waste/recycling stream. After some contemplation, we decided to re-purchase this plastic in the form of long-term, hard recycled plastic product. We are thinking of recycled plastic bench seats that we can place in our contemplation sites. Another product is posts for our grape vines.

The lesson learnt here – There’s always another way to look at issues. Keep an open mind and be prepared to be challenged.

This resulted in redesigning our Eaglerise Farm Philosophies.

Refer to Philosophy 3 – Consider our decisions’ impact in terms of bioregional issues

My Mycorrhizal Fungi Story

One of my greatest Ah-AH moments was about appropriate soil biology.

Several years ago, I was in Hawaii to talk to some university people about some course linkages. Whilst there I attended an organic farming workshop. After some discussion on mycorrhizal fungi, everyone was given a small zip-lock bag of mycorrhizal fungi spores to take home and water through their market garden.

I thought, “Great. I’ll have a go at this!”

When I got back to our accommodation, I had two thoughts, “How am I going to get this small bag of white powder into Australia?” and, “How could tropical, Hawaiian mycorrhizal fungi possibly be suitable to the soils at Mullengandra?”

I had the potential to introduce an inappropriate soil organism into my ecosystem – and the Australian ecosystem!

On reflection of this, I have compared it to the history of tree planting in Australia. After decades of ringbarking and killing trees, it was accepted that we needed trees back in the landscape. Many cypress pines were planted to provide shade and windbreaks.

After some time, it was realized that we really needed native trees for the ecosystem. This led to a wide selection of any tree as long as it was an Australian native. We had Western Australian flowering gums planted in eastern States for ecology diversity. These trees have much larger flowers and provide quite different ecological services than the locally natives.

It was then considered that we should be planting locally native trees. But a Murray River Red Gum is locally native, and it grows from one end of the Murray River to the other, over 2000km. Are there subtle differences, sub-species, growing with varying flower characteristics that have evolved within the distinct bioregion where it grows? Now we are encouraged to plant local provenance trees to match the local ecosystem requirements.

So, I ask, “Where should you source any soil biology from?” I suggest you look to your own farm and create your own local compost tea from your own local soil biology.

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