I have just come back from doing some selective hand weeding on Peppertree. Peppertree is our beautiful gum studded 65-acre property surrounding Tara Hills Retreat Centre. Initially it was purchased to provide a buffer for the retreat centre and ensure that the peace and tranquillity of Tara Hills was maintained. The property, which Lifeflow purchased through a generous bequest in late 2013, has been heavily grazed for at least 70 years. This has led to the degradation of the indigenous vegetation: a species-rich grassy woodland dominated by Red gums and Blue gums.
It is early summer and doing this light work in the cool of the morning is a great start to the day. The sun is low, the air crisp and cool on my skin. This part of the day along with early evenings are some of the best times to enjoy the property. There are stunning views from the crests of the hills down through the valleys all the way to Lake Alexandrina.
A blue tongue lizard is climbing out of its’ hole for a day of foraging amongst the grasses. Often there will be one or two kangaroos grazing and if you are lucky you might even spot the pair of koalas released late last summer after being rescued from the Cudlee Creek fires. On the spot that I am working it is heartening to see the benefits of the fire that burnt through last December. The native grasses have come back with gusto, crowding out what had been patches of annual grass.
Our long-term plan is to encourage the reseeding of native grasses throughout the property, using the existing patches as a natural seed source and selectively grazing to reduce annuals and encourage the natives back into the system. To help this project along we have also reseeded parts of the burn scar with a selection of native grasses. This is expensive and time-consuming work so the more that we can encourage mother nature to do this the better.
How does a meditation centre involve itself with this sort of environmental activity? As owners of this property we have a responsibility to manage it well for the benefit of biodiversity and to ensure future generations can enjoy this beautiful country. Often during retreats one of our teachers will take interested people on guided walks pointing out various aspects and explaining what we are working to achieve.
First steps to better land management
One of our early starts within our land management plan for Peppertree was introducing and protecting a new generation of large trees – as the climate changes the impact on the established eucalypts became obvious. They are suffering and there were not enough new seedlings surviving to take their place as the older trees begin to die out, particularly the river red gums. Several paddocks now have protected ‘new generation’ trees and we are experimenting with which varieties of trees will suit the changing climate patterns.
Another important measure was to adopt a rotational grazing system for the agisted cattle. The cattle are Peppertree’s lawn mowers and fertilisers and are essential in managing the land to keep the grass down. By continually moving the cattle around the various paddocks they are a great grass management tool, particularly in managing the survival and restoration of the native grasses.
As interest has gathered so have a group of knowledgeable people helping us steadily put in place our land management plan. This plan promotes the testing of grassy woodland regeneration methods and protects the diversity of native plants and animals already existing in the landscape. It is exciting to be on the cutting edge of land regeneration and helping to make a small difference to our environment.
Friends of Peppertree
Become involved and join a collegiate group of ‘Friends of Peppertree’ to help with protecting this beautiful environment, to be enjoyed by all visitors to our Retreat Centre. If you would like to know more about the Friends of Peppertree register here.
We are embedded in the environment and being in nature is incredibly conducive to meditation work, helping us to understand how connected we are with our surroundings. To be able to have the space around us; open to the big sky and vistas, the sounds of the birds and insects, the wind gently (or strongly) blowing over us. To sit on the earth and have that sense of being held and supported by the earth.