The annual Caring for Your Rural Block (”Blockies”) course is in full swing.  We are five weeks in to the ten week program. Participants vary in age, property size, experience levels and knowledge. Most have some animals even if it’s just a few chickens, and all have an interest in caring for and improving their land.

Read on to find out what you have missed …

So far, we have had an introduction to the geology, soils and vegetation types in the Gympie area and had our first field trip to a property where we looked at the landholder’s achievements including the establishment of a eucalyptus forest, wildlife corridors and an orchard. We were shown revegetation work undertaken over the years and the current pasture improvement project.  The landholder was Landcare’s very own president, Ernie Rider and his co-presenter was resident geology guru David Williams, who opened our eyes to the history of land forms and rocks in our area.  The weather was kind in that it didn’t rain but at the risk of being sexist, walking through paddocks in 39-degree heat sorted the men from the boys and it was a relief to get back onto the air-conditioned bus for the trip back to Landcare.

Since then we have been in the classroom where we have been mixing theory with practical activities.  Following an informative talk by Ann Mckenzie from BMRG about soils we had the opportunity to find out more about our own soils and got our hands dirty doing some basic soil tests.  The next week the enthusiasm and love of all things soil displayed by presenter and committee member Mel Marx really had an impact, with participants wanting to dig more deeply (pardon the pun) into the microorganisms and chemistry within the soil that lurks below our feet.   We learned about the importance of organic matter as a soil improver and made compost.

Next, we were guided by Landcare Nursery Manager Shane in how to propagate native plants from seed.  We have a competition running with participants vying for a small prize for the highest strike rate of the Brisbane wattle seeds planted on the day.  One week later a couple of people have reported successful germination already but with 5 weeks to go everyone is still in with a chance, except maybe the person whose pot fell over in the car.

Bree and Warren from Gympie Council came and told us about weeds, invasive species and feral animals and participants were able to have their own particular weeds identified.  All things Bio Security and our obligations and responsibilities as landholders was covered by Janet from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and then our Bio Control Manager led a tour of the Bio Control facility and participants were amazed to see what happens behind the scenes in the fight against weeds such as Cats Claw Creeper and Madeira Vine.

Coming up we have field trips to look at pasture management, permaculture in action and will visit a property to examine regenerative farming practices which can be scaled to suit any property size.  In the classroom we will be meeting representatives from local organisations such as Valley Bees, ANARRA, the Field Nats and the Koala Action Group, and learning about two very important pollinators, native bees and micro bats.  We will also meet a local snake catcher and learn how to behave around snakes and basic first aid for a snake bite, as well as learning about fire preparation and safety and manipulation of fire for beneficial effects.

Limited places are still available.  Classroom sessions are $10 for members and $12 for non-members.  Field trips cost $25 for members and $30 for non-members.  All sessions include morning tea and handouts, and bus travel is included for field trips.  Bookings and payment must be made through the website to secure your place.  Avoid disappointment, book now and come and join us.