Sunday, 30 July 2006

Ochre Arch now looks the part

Changing the name of a property is a big step. Our decision to adopt the name, Ochre Arch, stemmed from our desire to have a name that reflected something unique about the place ... and to move away from the previous name that for us was a bit too American. Since making our decision I have spoken with many people who know the place ... and have been very pleased at the positive support.
The last step in the name change process was to replace the lettering on the front gate. With the help of Ray and Rosemary Walter of Grenfell Steel Construction this is now complete ... as depicted in the attached photograph.

Friday, 28 July 2006

Ochre Archives Newsletter - Issue No. 2

Welcome to the second edition of ‘Ochre Archives’. Thanks for your very positive feedback on Issue No. 1. We’ve included responses below to the various questions and suggestions made.

Responses to Issue No. 1 Feedback
How big is the property, “Ochre Arch”?
Ochre Arch covers 385 hectares (3.85 m sq metres), small by local standards. For the city based readers, this equates in residential housing terms to around 6,400 average building blocks. Looking at it another way, 400 ha equates to 4 sq km. Thus if the property shape was a perfect square there would be almost 8km of boundary fencing.

What are our core farm management plans?
Some readers thought we were actually running the farm ourselves. Our adjoining neighbours, Harvey and Jacquie Matthews, lease the farm and thus run the property within their total farming operations.

What pests do we encounter on the property?
What is considered a pest from a human perspective varies between individuals, locations and eras. Some of the things that were once or are currently considered pests locally (to the extent that people have historically taken or still take action to eliminate them) are:
Birds: Crows, hawks, eagles, magpies, galahs, sparrows, starlings and noisy minors
Animals: Rats, mice, foxes, kangaroos, emus, feral pigs, wallabies, possums, cats and goats.
Reptiles: Snakes and goannas
Insects: Flies, mosquitoes, ants, spiders, locusts, beetles, wasps, hornets, mites, lice, caterpillars and cockroaches
Invertebrates: Worms in livestock.
Plants: Bathurst Burr, Camel and Paddy melons, Saffron & Scotch thistles, Cape Weed, Blackberries, Box Thorn, Devil’s Claw, Clover burr, Paterson’s Curse, Eucalypt and Cypress Pine trees, Skeleton Weed, Black Oats, Bull Rushes, Barley Grass and Corkscrew Grass.

Aboriginal medicines information
Cheryl Kemp (well known Biodynamic Consultant) let us know that in the book, Emerald Downs (about a convict who lived with the Aborigines in late 1790s in NSW) it explains that Aborigines used honey to heal his burns, bark and clay for the wounds, fungal spores given orally to dull pain, and maggots to keep the wounds clean whilst healing.

Blog Site Establishment
Paul Griffiths (Holistic Management ™ Certified Educator) suggested that rather than send out Ochre Archives as a Portable Document Format (PDF) attached to the covering email we establish a blog site and provide those on the Ochre Archives distribution list with a link to the Newsletter. We’ve taken this advice on board. Phillip now has 2 sites: and These blog sites contain additional information on our learnings and activities which readers might like to check out from time to time.

Findings from recent trips to the farm
Trees and Shrubs
We came across a young male flowering Drooping She-oak (Allocasuarina verticillata) as you can see in early July, and thank Toni McLeish & John Briggs from the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation for assisting with species identification.

Rock Formations

It turns out we have our own mini “Bread-knife” on the farm – for those familiar with the Warrumbungles:

Phillip’s Mum’s cousin, Robyn Walker wanted to know the species we’d seen to date so we went through our records and listed them all in the blog-site article Since then we’ve seen 2 more species, taking the total to 58 so far:
· Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
· Noisy Friarbird (Philemon corniculatus)

At Easter we came across a 1.4 metre Blue-bellied Black (AKA Spotted Black) Snake (Pseudechis guttatus) near the shearing shed, coiled up in a short rabbit burrow and a 1 metre example out in the open in the middle of the oat crop in mid-July. So one cannot assume all snakes hibernate during winter!

Native Animals

We came across a Lesser Long-eared Bat (Nyctophilus geoffroyi) on the floor of the shearing shed one morning and also saw a couple of Common Brushtail Possums (Tichosurus vulpecula) whilst spotlighting for nocturnal wildlife through some of the White Box country up in the hills .


The design you can see in this photograph was created naturally during the formation and subsequent uncovering of this granite boulder. The area is approx. 1.5 metrea squared.

A few months ago we came across an eroded section of soil near a gate (high traffic area for stock and vehicles) that was approximately 300 mm (deep) X 800 mm (long) X 300 mm (across). We filled it with a couple of green Camel melon vines, minus the melons! The picture below was taken a couple of weeks ago, suggesting that the eroded area is well on the way to full recovery.

It is not clear whether using Camel melon vines (rather than some other vegetation) had an impact on the rapid repair – we have heard that the sap from these vines / melons was used by Aborigines to eradicate fungal skin ailments such as Tinea.

In Closing
Once again, feedback is most welcome, via email to Stay happy and well.

Kind regards…

Phillip & Jan Diprose

Link to: Ochre Archives Newsletter - Issue No. 1

Link to: Ochre Archives Newsletter - Issue No. 3

Ochre Archives Newsletter - Issue No. 1

In April this year Jan and I produced, in PDF format, Issue No. 1 of a Newsletter we titled Ochre Archives, which we emailed to a wide group of family and friends. Since then we have set up this blog site and are in the latter stages of finalising Issue No. 2, which will this time be circulated to most people via a link to this blog site - although we will still produce a copy in PDF format for our own purposes. Issue No. 2 makes references to the prior edition, so in the interest of continuity and ease of access for our readers we have reproduced the content of Issue No. 1 below.

Welcome to the first edition of ‘Ochre Archives’, which aims to record and share discoveries and events connected with our farm “Ochre Arch” near Grenfell in New South Wales, Australia.
We recently changed the property name to Ochre Arch when we learned that Aborigines once mined ochre from under the natural ironstone arch in one of the creeks. Here is a picture of the arch:
We’ve owned the farm since late 2003 and had access to it through family since 1979. Despite many walks through the scrub and around the place we have yet to see it all given the size, terrain and vegetation. Every time we visit, without exception, we learn or observe something new or different. We figure if it’s exciting for us then it might at least be interesting to others, and felt a newsletter was probably the best way of sharing the information.
Hyperlinks have been included throughout the document, providing access to additional information for those who are interested.

Findings from the last trip to the farm
Trees and Shrubs
We found 3 Native Cherry or Cherry Ballart (Exocarpos cupressiformis) trees, and confess to never even having heard of them before. They are usually co-located with eucalyptus, and are parasitic. Unlike mistletoe they can survive if the host plant dies. European settlers used them as Christmas trees, and a web site we found suggests that Aboriginal use included:
· Sap - used as a snake bite treatment,
· Twigs - provided a tonic and astringent, valuable as a solution for stopping infection,
· Leaves - used to create a smoke for repelling insects during the summer months.
The web site also states: “Of interest, is the use by north eastern Australian aboriginals, of the closely related species Exocarpus latifolius (Broad-leaved native cherry). This plant had yellow fruit, which was again eaten when very ripe. However, its bark was soaked to provide a tonic for the sterilization of tribal women, no longer allowed to give birth due to tribal traditions.”

We contacted Sue Hudson (Sue is an Aboriginal archaeologist, and visited our farm in September 2005) for some additional thoughts on the Cherry Ballart. She confirmed much of the above and suggested caution in eating the fruit given that the Aborigines used it to induce abortions! Good advice, we reckon.

Mikla Lewis (a local resident with a deep knowledge of, and passion for, native flora and fauna) visited and pointed out many species of plants that we did not know the names of, including:
· White Box. (Eucalyptus albens) trees
· Bull-oak (Casuarina luehmannii) trees
· Drooping She-oak (Casuarina stricta) trees
· Currawang (Acacia doratoxylon) wattle
· Tumbledown Red Gum (Eucalyptus dealbata) trees
· Dwyer’s Red Gum (Eucalyptus dwyeri) trees

Rock Formations
It also turns out we have our own mini “Hanging Rock”, as you can see in this picture:

We spotted 2 young Eastern Bearded Dragons (Pogona Barbata) in different paddocks.

The following 4 new bird species were sighted, taking the total to 49 so far:
· Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus) – listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the NSW Threatened Species website
· Little Pied Cormorants (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos)
· Jacky Winter (Microeca fascinans)
· Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata)

Harvey Matthews (Harvey & Jacquie lease Ochre Arch) commented despite the fact that there has not been significant rain since last November the fresh water natural spring started ‘producing’ a lot more water about 1 month ago; presumably as a consequence of the 500 mm of rain that fell during the cooler months of 2005.

A single stem of grass on bare ground, assisted by wind, created this design. The circle is approx. 800 mm in diameter.

Native Animals
We spotted a large almost black Eastern Wallaroo (Macropus robustus robustus).

During the past year several people have suggested to us that they have had success in restoring bare ground and ‘filling in’ small gullies by placing ‘anything that was alive and is now dead’ (such a dead sheep, branches etc.) on the site.Near the cottage on the farm is a patch of bare ground on the edge of the creek caused, in part, about half a century ago when the top soil was pushed into the creek to create a bank for vehicles to cross. We’ve decided to try out the idea as you will see in the accompanying photo, and have been careful to make sure the dead branches are not in places where they would float and wash down the creek following downpours (potentially damaging fences). It will be interesting to see what happens. Not that we want this to happen, but it’s possible we may have created an ideal habitat for rabbits given they like both cover and adjacent bare ground.

In Closing
We welcome any feedback you might have via email to Please also let us know if you do not want to receive future editions of Ochre Archives, or perhaps you want to visit the property (please - only when we are at the farm – this is for Health & Safety and Security reasons).

We hope this finds you happy and well.

Kind regards…

Phillip & Jan Diprose

Link to: Ochre Archives Newsletter - Issue No. 2

Link to: Ochre Archives Newsletter - Issue No. 3