By Alan Hewitt, Chiltern Landcare member
Moving from the eastern suburbs of Melbourne to a 53 hectare property overlooking the Indigo Valley didn’t appear daunting at first. Of course my partner Joan and I didn’t know we would have to fight a bushfire, contend with drought, master new skills and tools and put in a lot of back-breaking hours.
That was over ten years ago and we both agree it’s been worth it. Soon after we moved here Joan made the inspirational decision to put a covenant on the property with Trust For Nature to protect the native vegetation. Despite large areas of public land in Victoria, most native vegetation is on private land. Our property is located mid way between two sections of the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park and is a significant bio-link along with other private bushland.
The conservation values of the property are significant. There are almost 30 hectares of native grasses, comprising Wallaby Grass, Weeping Grass and Wire Grass. Species of trees include Blakely’s Red Gum, Red Stringybark, Long Leaf Box and Red Box. Wattles, both Black and Silver, dominate. The Wattle display in winter is spectacular.
We have sighted over seventy species of birds, including vulnerable species such as the Diamond Firetail and Hooded Robin. The Magpies constantly battle the White Winged Choughs over territory, while Wrens and Eastern Spinebills nest near the veranda. A resident mob of kangaroos graze the grass around the house, occasionally nibble the flowers and drink from the bird baths in summer.
We have put up over sixteen nesting boxes and had considerable success: Possums, Squirrel Gliders and recently a Brush Tailed Phascogale. As well, we have Wallabies, Echidnas, Goannas and the occasional Koala.
Another inspirational idea from Joan was the decision to install solar panels and a solar hot water service years before it became fashionable. We are reaping the financial benefits now as well as reducing our carbon footprint. We have twenty fruit trees and enjoy the benefits if we get there before the birds and animals. Joan’s pride and joy is her vegetable garden which is protected like Fort Knox. The inevitable chooks top off our menagerie.
There are downsides to our lifestyle. There is the constant battle against weeds (St. Johns Wort, Fleabane and Thistles), and feral animals, (foxes, hares and rabbits). However, we do not regret our decision to move here and know that the property will be protected for ever.