Starting a new farm

Shan and Shane Joyce

Image courtesy of The Australian Women's Weekly

I will paint a picture of our situation to begin. We have recently sold our 7900 hectare farm Dukes Plain (3000 farmable hectares), where for the past 31 years we have had a beef cattle enterprise.

A brief history of Dukes Plain: it was taken up by my Grandfather in 1914, when it was primarily a horse breeding enterprise. These were the times when horses were used extensively in the armed forces. As this market faded, beef cattle became the enterprise.

Hereford cattle began to give way to Santa Gertrudis in the early 1950’s under the management of my Father and Uncle.

Brigalow and Vine scrubs gave way to Caterpillar bulldozers in the late 1950’s and exotic grasses were introduced.

The 50’s and 60’s were the “golden” years of massive production increases due to the establishment of grass pastures (and massive extinctions) on the newly cleared scrub country and an insatiable demand for new cattle genetics.

The bubble had well and truly burst by 1982 when Shan and I returned to take up management and we chose to seek “new” ways to address land degradation, run down of pastures, loss of biodiversity, and increasing production costs.

Dukes Plain - a healthy landscape rich in vegetation

Our first 10 years were characterized by experimentation with various methods of re-clearing (and retention) of trees, cropping, and grazing.

Then in 1993 we began the change into Cell Grazing and by 1996 had split the property up into fifty-six paddocks (from an original seven paddocks).

In 2002 came the next big breakthrough, when we began the use of the Biodynamic methods, into our (by then) one hundred paddocks.

Since 1995 we had recorded individual paddock yields, this giving us the ability to “compare” paddocks where we had employed different levels of timber retention.

Here we are now in 2014, having sold Dukes Plain to a Coal Seam Gas consortium for Environmental Offsets near the end of 2013.

January 13, 2014 we took possession of our new Beach House on a 141-hectare allotment at Kilkivan (120 kilometers from Rainbow Beach).

Kumbartcho - a landscape needing some TLC

Kumbartcho.

So this is our new farm, which we are “starting”, and I will endeavor to take you through the “steps” of our process.

Firstly we set a list of the desirable features for our new landscape, and after many hours of Google searching had identified a short list (two) of properties we thought worth an inspection. As part of this inspection process we endured several real estate agents driving us to inspect properties, which to put it bluntly were, apart from not meeting our criteria, quite depressing!

It did not take long now to choose one from the short list of two, and it was off back to the “chosen one” for a second inspection, and to take soil and water samples for testing.

With the test results in and interpreted, it seemed like an eternity waiting for settlement of the Dukes Plain deal!

Once we had achieved “CRAP” (Once Dukes Plain settled we became Cash Rich Asset Poor), we moved to making an offer, and after some back and forth between the agent, the vendor, and ourselves we had agreed on a price and rapidly moved to contract stage.

Now, the long wait, for settlement day. Sixty days seems like a long time when one really wants to get ones teeth into a new project.

I can tell you we were waiting at the gate on settlement day, complete with biodynamic preparations (Biodynamic Soil Activator), a quad bike with 50-litre spray tank.

With a selection of trees to plant, swag, two cups, a fry pan, a saucepan, two chairs, and cutlery for two, Shan and I moved in.

I had neglected to put in a two hundred litre drum to stir the Soil Activator, however as fate would have it there was one left in the shed by the previous owners.

Kumbartcho paddocks

My plan was to get the biodynamic impulse started, and to do this I set myself a goal to get sprayed around the whole boundary fence. Within 48 hours of moving in, not only had this been achieved, but also I had also sprayed along all internal fences, and as well sprayed some of the smaller paddocks completely.

newly planted trees

Now to the tree planting! I had deliberately selected trees from Dukes Plain, which I thought would thrive in this new environment. These trees I figured would carry the well established biodynamic impulse from he soils of Dukes Plain, and to help “reinforce” this we buried under each tree a small bottle of soil activator. According to Enzo Nastati, a bottle of biodynamic preparations planted under a tree will last for thirty years!

Along with the bottle of preparations, I also buried 3 chicken feathers. Again an Enzo thing!

Farm dog in overgrazed paddock

Now we had planted the biodynamic seed on the farm. I paid particular attention while spraying, to spray around all existing, and past infrastructure. While spraying, I carried the intention to clear all residual negative energies from the farm, and that the biodynamic preparations would once again get the Nature Spirits back and working on the farm.