The environment is what we eat

Every now and then something that touches your heart happens. This week it was a young lady called Grace Mahon who is in Year 5 at Jamberoo Public School.

Grace entered the prestigious LandLearn NSW public speaking competition at the end of last year and she has been selected as a finalist to compete at the Dubbo Beef Spectacular on March 15.

Grace’s first round speech that caught the judges’ ear was entitled “The Environment is What we Eat. I don’t know Grace but her mother Ros tells me she wanted to focus on something local and did a little bit of internet research and found our farm.

For the finals her topic is ‘Australian vs. Foreign produce. How can we win”.  Winners, runners-up and a rising star will win cash prizes and the overall winner of the day will be invited to deliver their speech at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

With Grace’s permission I have used my favourite pictures of Clover Hill to turn her speech into a video which you can watch here


Thank you Grace we feel truly honoured and we are very confident you will give the other finalists a strong run for their money in Dubbo next month

Food is our common Ground

Previous winners and finalists speeches can be found here

Start the day with the perfect cocktail


This weekend Erin (see Next Gen giving our farm lots of TLC) has bought the troops in to put the finishing touches on our Fountaindale Dam project

Fountaindale Dam is a beautiful area bordering our farm but was sadly suffering from benign neglect and we have taken it upon ourselves to build community partnerships to help rectify this.


This important community area covers diverse environmental zones including the headwaters of Fountaindale Creek which flows into Minnamurra River and wetlands.

Fountaindale Dam 10001

Red circle indicate area of Fountaindale Dam at Jamberoo

Whilst the dam borders our farm it is actually owned by Kiama Council who built it a long time ago in the hope of supplying Kiama with water. An expensive pipe dream as it turned out.


Lots of farm generations have had fun playing under the dam wall

Above the dam are a number of hobby and lifestyle farms and many small mountain streams which bisect significant areas of high conservation value remnant rainforest feed into the dam. The hobby and lifestyle farms unfortunately in the main don’t fence their cattle out of the waterways and this has led to considerable degradation of the upper stream beds during the drought.

The region is also habitat for the spotted quoll – a beautiful little native animal (which also has a penchance for chooks)

Spotted quoll

Spotted quoll cute and endangered but don’t let him near your chickens

Zieria Granulata is an endangered shrub found only in the Illawarra region of NSW and also thrives here.

Siannon CtG 0008

With the support of Kiama Council and funding from a Community Action Grant and Erin’s expertise we cleared the invasive evil lantana from the banks of the dam.


Lantana is considered to be one of the ten worst weeds worldwide but it is so entrenched in the Australian landscape its thickets now provide a substitute habitat for a range of animals, including bandicoots, whipbirds, quail, wrens, birdwing butterflies and brush turkeys, where it has replaced the natural understorey vegetation.


Every wise landholder knows removing Lantana is a waste of time unless cleared areas are revegetated with native trees or pasture immediately and regular maintenance is a must until the vegetation is well established.

Fountaindale Dam Jan 18th 2011  (8)

Once we had cleared the Lantana we sowed ryegrass in the open areas and did spot spraying of secondary weed nasties in the rainforest understory.

Jack's Paddock

We ensure all our paddocks around the dam have a permanent pasture coverage which helps keep the nutrients on the pasture where they should be and not washed into the waterways during major rainfall events. 

This weekend Erin and her eco warriors have planted a further 400 rainforest tree species such as Black plum, bleeding heart and myrtle ebony as part of a new wildlife corridor.


Petrol powered plant auger makes light work of digging the holes


We even landscaped the backyard of our friendly neighbourhood wombat


Michael bravely put his hand up to plant all the Giant Stinging Trees (Dendrocnide excelsa)-

The purpose of these plantings is to strengthen the existing wildlife corridor that links the lower rainforest to the rainforest around the dam. Once the trees in the wildlife corridor are established we will be planting rows of native grasses to act as a nutrient buffer zone between the pastures and the dam. This will ensure minimal farm runoff can get into the community waterways and help reduce the nutrient load on the waterways.


All the rainforest trees that have been planted here have been provided by Landcare Illawarra as part of the “Illawarra Rainforest and Woodland project”.

This project aims to increase the genetic diversity of plantings in the Illawarra which has the potential to increase the level of fruiting of individual species. This is an important project as it aims to ensure genetic variability in the many species selected. Landcare Illawarra has collected seed from multiple locations to guarantee this.


Many hands make light work and another great effort from Next Gen Eco Warriors


Heads up today is Erin’s birthday – you can wish her happy birthday and tell her what a great little eco warrior she is via Twitter @ErinLake_C2G

Weddings in Paradise

Believe it or not this is a story about growing grass.

Rolling green hills, seascapes and briescapes ( not that I think either of our processors make soft cheeses out of our milk – what a shame).

Recognise the backdrop


Four days earlier it looked like this


This wedding was in November and the bride and groom and the photographer Peter Merison did a rekkie for wedding photos at Clover Hill in late September.

When Peter knocked on the door and asked if he could take wedding photos in the front paddock little did he know how much preparation would go into the timing of the cows eating the paddock off in order to have the grass at the perfect height (and manure free- well almost) to provide the best experience for all parties concerned including most importantly the cows .

The weather was perfect, the grass was perfect, the photos look superb and if the wedding blog is anything to go by the wedding was perfect.

Now back to the finely tuned art form of growing grass for best practice pasture based dairying.

Greener than Green

Looking back from the west to the dairy and the paddock in front of my house  – can you see it?

This picture was taken in the spring and the grass in the forefront of this paddock is almost perfect. A nice blend of oats and annual rye grass at just the right height, with  high energy (carbohydrate) levels and balanced protein content.

Good dairy farmers know their grass so well they can pretty accurately estimate the energy and protein levels of the grass just by looking at it at any given point of the year. Take my word for it this grass is short and sweet and the cows quicken their step when they saw it.

During spring our rotation (number of days its takes the cows to eat off every paddock on the farm) is approximately fourteen days and thanks to the temperate weather and high rainfall this year our current rotation is still 14 days as the ryegrass is still hanging in there. As ryegrass is a cooler climate grass normally at this time of the year it would be too hot and the ryegrass will have died out or gone to seed (grass loses 40% of its energy content when it goes to seed) and the kikuyu will have taken over.

Good dairy farmers are always casting their eyes over their paddocks on a day to day basis to pick the best grass for their cows. If one paddock has got away (the grass is past its peak ) and another paddock is at the perfect stage you go with the paddock that is perfect otherwise you spend your time chasing your tail. Our cows go into a different paddock after every milking. This allows us to pick a paddock with good shade for the hottest part of the day. This means we need to pick three ideal paddocks every day.

Cows on heat  

Yesterday when we bought the cows home from Jack’s paddock we had a number of options which is always a good thing unless more than one paddock is past its best by date. We chose this one known as the dam paddock (for obvious reasons) or paddock 27


Each paddock has a number but they also have another name that often has no relevance to the present. Jack’s paddock has an historical significance. Jack and Viv used to own the 100 acres next door and as we have fond memories of them  I imagine this paddock will be called Jack’s paddock for a long while yet.

Back to the wedding. How impressive does this look


and my favourite photo from the blog


Wedding photos in this blog have been used with permission