It was the era when native shrubs were popular, so they featured heavily in the garden. However looking over the farm, it was fairly treeless. Tarnook had been reasonably tree covered in the early years, but grey box, red box and red gum were excellent firewood. They were cut down then transported to Baddaginnie railway yard, to be railed to Melbourne to warm the houses and fire the stoves. In the early part of the century, farms in that area were small, families surviving on dairying and small flocks of animals. The trees were cut for wood to supplement their meagre income. Mostly the stumps were left in the ground.
Firstly, the stumps had to be knocked out, heaped up and burnt. Then we had to decide what trees to plant, where, and how to protect them till they were a reasonable height. Protection is vital in the early years, so many pests to destroy them. We had sheep, but rabbits and hares can also cause a lot of damage.
We decided on tree guards made from 44 gallon drums with top and bottom removed, and some fenced in tree lots for windbreaks. Next decision was where to plant. Some trees were to be planted in groups on the top of hills, others to follow along the gullies, and some around dams for shelter as well as being pleasing to look at.
Next decision was what to plant. Obviously those native to the area would have to be used, but we decided to experiment with other varieties as well. Seedling trees were expensive. We needed hundreds, so we collected seeds and grew a lot ourselves.
Trees were a new language – with botanical names and common names. We bought books and studied the soil types needed by different trees. However, there was not much choice at gravelly Tarnook.
We really enjoyed our planting days - family affairs, with stops for tea and eats. In summer, watering was necessary. Forty-four gallon drums on the back of the ute were filled with water and, armed with buckets, we did the rounds. We had several nasty surprises, especially when a huge red belly black snake objected to water being tipped in his tree guard drum. We dropped the buckets and literally flew up onto the back of the ute! On another occasion a cat was in a drum and flew out and gave us a fright.
It was a learning experience. Some trees flourished. Some didn’t survive the frosty winters, especially the scented gums. Some blue gums did well, but mallee trees didn’t.
Twenty years down the track, when we sold the farm, most of the trees looked well and certainly added to the value of it. There were successes and failures. The years weren’t always kind, droughts took their toll and windstorms did damage.
We were proud of our planting. There is something very satisfying in planting a tree that may be there after we are gone.
May 25, 2020