Sunday, July 29, 2018

July 2018 Outing Report: Pechey Homestead

Twenty-one members and three visitors made their way to Pechey Homestead, near Crows Nest, to visit the property of John O’Brien and Liz Pechey. Their property had, as John explained at the beginning, three strands of ‘forestry’: (i) about 30 acres of blackbutts and spotted gums (ii) about 30 acres of hoop pines, and (iii) about 5.5 hectares of semi-evergreen vine thicket. This last patch had been cleared by the family of most of the weeds, such as asparagus ferns, privet, and lantana. Also on hand was Steve Plant (and his son Alex) to lead us on walks through at least two of these patches.

Hoop pine
Our walk, on this cold morning, began with a slow amble through the garden around the old homestead. There was a hoop pine that, in a photo of 1921, was about 60 centimetres tall but after almost a hundred years is a magnificent giant. As we walked around we were also informed about a number of things: ecofarm stay that was being offered, that the water table underneath the property was 400 feet down, that Jarawair artefacts had been found on the property and, with the approval of the Jarawair people, had been made a part of the landscape near the homestead. We walked past the ‘History Hut’, where some early photos of the area and the family sawmill were displayed, as were a collection of accounting books from the sawmill days. The hut also contained old books, which were part of a library.

After the short garden walk, we went with Steve Plant to the vine scrub. He explained how the disappearance of a top storey of trees led to this vine scrub. This area was cleared about a 100 years ago and what we see today is a 100 years growth. Among the things pointed out were: orange boxwood (May-tenus disperma), climbing black-fruited asparagus (Asparagus plumosus) and how to get rid of it, crows ash (Flindersia australis) – which raised a discussion about how good its wood was and how it had been used in halls (made a good dance floor); a weed, corky passion fruit (*Passiflora suberosa), a patch of hoop pines obviously planted in a line, brush caper berry (Capparis arborea) with its two thorns (now) in between which had been the leaf of the plant. Other plants and trees that were pointed out were: black-fruited thornbush (Pittosporum viscidum), lignum (Vitex lignum-vitae), grey gums (Eucalyptus biturbinata), brush box (Lophostemon confertus) climbing red-fruited asparagus (*Asparagus africanus) and bridal asparagus (*Asparagus asparagoides). (Ed: the asterisk marks the weedy introduced species). Looking at the list above, it is obvious that the work of eliminating weeds is an ongoing struggle.
Destroyed patch of blady grass
Our next walk was to another patch of the property, a former pine forest. Steve Plant was full of information about this patch, how the remnants had been destroyed to start a pine forest, rather than re-planting it with more of the types of trees that had been felled. The following were pointed out to us: Ebony tree (Diospyros australis), stringy bark (Eucalyptus eugenioides), blue gum (Eucalyptus saligna), tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys), and Gympie messmate (Eucalyptus cloeziana). We also saw a patch of blady grass (Imperata cylindrica), part of which looked as if it had been poisoned. Steve Plant explained that underground there was a network of tunnels created by native rats (Rattus tunneyi) and they loved eating the tuber of the grass because it was sweet (food on demand during the season!!) and thus killing it.
This walk took us to lunchtime enjoyed in the sun in the open. Even though it was cold, the day was enjoyable because of the generosity of John and Liz, and the knowledge of Steve Plant as he led us through two of the three special patches on the property. 
(Report by Francis Mangubhai, with thanks to Trish Gardner 
for help with the names of the plants)
Bird List for Pechy Outing (compiled by Nicci Thompson)
Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Rainbow Lorikeet, Superb Fairywren, Eastern Spinebill, Brown Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Lewin's Honeyeater, White-browed Scrubwren, Large-billed Scrubwren, Brown Thornbill, Australian Magpie, Varied Sittella, Eastern Yellow Robin, Red-browed Finch, Double-barred Finch. 

No comments: