Tree Planting

PHOTO 1 shows what the farm was like after I had been living here for about a year.

This is the only photo that I have from this period since I didn’t particularly believe in photos and I was probably daunted about recording the size of the problem and the time and effort needed for a solution that suited the environment and would eventually give me a farm income.

If you dig down into the bed of the creek, you usually go through several feet of black silt, and there may be an 8 inch layer of coarse sand often associated with boulders. This would have been the old creek bed. Sometimes in the boundary between the sand and the silt, there can be found, some staghorns and some leaves which can also be identified. They have been preserved in the mud and silt.

PHOTO 2 shows the depth of silt above a layer of rocks and sand.

Now that the trees have been planted on the slopes again, there is insignificant soil erosion into the creek bed and the water course has to now erode back down to the stable level of the old creek bed.

In this photo, there is a small log in front of the dog. This is a piece of red cedar from a tree that was cut in the pioneer days. It also shows how durable red cedar is. This was picked up just downstream from where the photo was taken.

PHOTOS 3, 4 & 5 below show the sequence of events on a very hard and dry northern slope.

PHOTO 3 is from the 1920s or 30s and was given to me by the original owners. It was taken after the forest had been cleared and the slope was being used for grazing. Small erosion gullies are just starting to form. Sometime later, parts of this slope were also used for small crops. This was my first large scale tree planting project on a slope which was initially planted in November, 1977. Unfortunately, December 1977 was exceptionally dry and many died. These were replanted next summer.

PHOTO 4 shows the slope in 1985 when the trees are just starting to be seen.

PHOTO 5 is how it looks now. Initially I’ve planted up the steep slopes and have kept grazing on the flatter areas. Light grazing reduced fire risk and gives me some sort of immediate income. As I start to make a living from the thinnings, I hope to extend my planting program onto the better areas and eventually further reduce the number of cattle.

This slope now looks good and healthy, but we tend to forget that it was initially a very difficult site. A tree planter needs to enjoy the happy sight of trees growing on hillsides that otherwise would be just an eyesore. The gratification must come from a healthy hillside and not from the money to be made because the wait is just too long. To the left of the photo can just be seen a remnant patch of rainforest which was not cleared because it was too steep and rocky. Many trees here died in the terrible drought of 1991, but again, time has allowed for recovery. Many rainforest and naturally occuring eucalyptus trees died in this drought, but not many of my planted hoop pines which remained green and healthy.

Another sequence of change can be seen in PHOTOS 6 & 7.

PHOTO 6 shows the site in the 1920s or 30s with a herd of dairy cattle and the dairy.

In the background can be seen some of the original rainforest before it was shortly cleared.

This area would have been my easiest tree planting area on very easy slopes and few weeds to worry about.

PHOTO 7 is the area in 1976, before being planted in December, 1978.

There is a photo of these now mature trees in next section of my story.

I’ve also planted up some areas with Gympie Messmate.

The trees in PHOTO 8 (Gympie Messmates) were planted in 1977, and now some of these trees are over100 feet tall. This is an example of some of the plantings that now require thinning to give me some income and also for the health of the forest to allow the better trees to get bigger. These trees are near my front gate and act as a wind break from the dry westerly winds with my neighbour’s pasture just beyond. Since this was formerly a rainforest site, I tend not to plant eucalyptus species and prefer rainforest trees.

Recently I have planted some Queensland maple, (Flindersia brayleyana) but only in my best sites with good soil and plenty of moisture. I have seen some 1930s planting of this north Queensland tree, here in south Queensland, and I was very impressed and so I have tried growing some here. They have some desirable characteristics such as appearing very healthy and vigorous plus the wood is a high quality cabinet timber that is lyctus borer resistant in the sapwood.

PHOTO 9 shows a November 1993 maple tree when about 5 years old.

The other interesting feature of my farm forestry venture is that I also grow Red Cedar (Toona australis) but this can be read about elsewhere.

The grown-up children from the original owner have visited me and told me a few stories.

He told me that he cut down this tree which was so big that it had only an inch or two on either side of his crosscut saw so that it took him a long time to cut it down. When it fell over, it speared all the way down to the bottom of the hill.

I’m sure this is the stamp with a new tree coming up inside it.