A freelance writer living in suburban Adelaide, taking his first tentative steps. You can see some of his past work at bernhardsayer.wordpress.com
Tarcowie is calling you
After a year that saw many of us cooped up at home through winter against our will, 2021 is presenting an opportunity to get out into the beauty of South Australia's mid north and get some fresh air in your lungs, whilst simultaneously contributing to the revegetation of one of the most beautiful areas of the state.
About 250km north of Adelaide, Tarcowie is nestled in a valley between the Pekina and Narien Ranges. There are few more beautiful places to spend a winter's day. It's a delight to sit above the Tarcowie valley and watch the clouds get blown towards the south east, over the patchwork quilt of paddocks, scrub, creeks and distant hills. And the revegetation efforts of the Tarcowie Landcare Group over the last 20 years have now provided an even more beautiful sight, with the valley now returning more and more to something resembling its beauty from before European colonisation.
The Tarcowie Landcare Group is again busy preparing for its major planting event on the June long weekend and is inviting anyone interested to join them.
Officially founded in 2005, the Tarcowie Landcare Group has actually been planting in the area for 19 years, with recent years prominently showing the fruits of their initial labours, most visibly for anyone driving on the Orroroo – Laura road (Price Maurice Road).
Group Chairperson Chris Grabczewski says the thriving vegetation planted by the group alongside this road is a strong visual indication of the group's success to date "When you initially plant a seedling, it's only six inches high, and that will be almost invisible when you first drive past. But now, when you look at our early plantings some 15-16 years later, we regularly hear people saying to us 'gee, I'm impressed, with a number of them wanting us to work on their property."
The group has undertaken plantings every year since their initial inception. The group's primary objective is revegetation, and to achieve this successfully, the group tailor-makes a set of plants for each specific planting site. This is the best approach to recreating the pre-European vegetation communities that existed specifically in the Tarcowie area as it enables the best success rate, the greatest long term viability, and sustainable planting.
The group's intention for its planting sites is to establish environments that see the plantings drop seeds over time, enabling spontaneous regeneration on that location into the future. Choosing the correct species for the correct location is the very best way to ensure ongoing success. Put simply, it's crucial to have the right material in the right place.
With students from the Orroroo Area School participating in a planting day on Friday the 11th of June, the Tarcowie Landcare Group continue their planting activities across the weekend on the Saturday and Sunday (the 12th and 13th of June).
Grabczewski continues "We've been involving local schools in the plantings which we find to be really important, because they're the future land owners - some of them are going to live in the area in the long term. So, by involving them they get a connection to the planting, and an introduction to the concept. They get a day away from school, and a day that's educational where they come to understand what we are planting, and why we are planting. We've produced a beautiful brochure about the group that goes into a showbag with other bits and pieces, so the planting function doesn't start and finish at the site. When they get on the bus they've got some mementoes, our brochure and on occasions a plant to take home, the idea being that we get the kids to communicate with the parents when they get home, so that we get our message out to a wider audience."
The group's activities go further than simply beautification. The group's activities over the last two decades have seen the establishment of shelter belts that stop wind erosion and help to retain moisture in the soil, and which protect stock in inclement weather and also stop any locusts in their tracks.There have been other advantages from the biodiversity outcomes of the group's activities - for example, there are more sleepy lizards that eat more hoppers during a hopper plague, and more birds of prey have been attracted to the habitat that the group has planted which has helped to control mice. The trees and plantings also have the effect of lowering the water table, which in turn improves ground salinity levels. Many of the outcomes are hard to measure and take a long time to establish themselves, however, some are starting to present themselves in full view.
Grabczewski says that all interested people are welcome to attend on the Saturday and Sunday of the long weekend. "We're like any group doing anything, we're always looking for new and younger members. We'd like our group to be sustainable and go on for many more years to come because the job of repairing the landscape is a massive one."
"While the main planting activity starts on the Friday with the school planting, the work for the weekend starts well before then, so if anyone wants to come along early, they are most welcome. The current membership is mostly Adelaide based, however, some members have links to the local area. Anyone is welcome to join us, and we're especially keen to encourage families to join us".
Whilst not essential, the group would appreciate interested people contacting them ahead of the June long weekend via their Facebook page, particularly to assist with catering. "The Friday school activity is catered with a BBQ, and then on the Sunday, we are blessed with (group member) June Jenkins' homemade pasties and pies!"
Whilst there are no commercial accommodation options in the Tarcowie township, the group is very happy to help people in this regard. "There's always room for caravans and tents, and we can provide access for electricity for example. There are multiple opportunities for camping." Alternatively, nearby towns of Booleroo Centre, Orroroo, Pekina, Laura and Jamestown provide accommodation options as well.
The group also undertake other activity weekends throughout the year, including site preparation and maintenance, weed control, fencing, making guards and sourcing stakes, and removing pest growth to stop competition which then allows plantings to get more moisture and grow better.
The group is keen to emphasise is how relaxed and casual they are, and how welcome anyone will feel upon arrival. Grabczewski adds "We had a number of families come to our last planting in 2019 and they had a great time. It's a great way to spend time in the outdoors, and in years to come the kids will have the thrill of driving past the planting sites and saying 'I did that'."