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A tale of trees (and socks)

· Farm life

There's an old African proverb that states "it takes a village to raise a child."

Wise words, indeed. Something similar can be said of raising trees: it's not a job for one person alone. As we step back and reflect on our latest round of tree planting, one thing is clear: it really does take a village - plus some really great socks - to plant and raise trees.

Here, now, is a bit of yarn about the recent tree planting efforts on the farm, as well as a shout-out to everyone who helped along the way, and a bit of (unsolicited) advice about the importance of wearing really good socks.

First, you need to find some young trees. This, after three years of wet weather, is a bigger challenge than you'd imagine. Fortunately, Ben from Cascades Nursery is a man with trees, and Rob had pre-ordered dozens of young, barerooted trees from Ben's Crookwell-based nursery months earlier.

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Image 1: Rob with Ben from Cascades Nursery

Next, you determine how to get the trees from Crookwell to Milton. Rob opted to collect the young trees himself. And because his order couldn't fit in the back of his Isuzu, he knew he'd need something into which a lot of tall, living things could fit comfortably.

Enter the Murrays, Rob's good mates, and the local mob of dairy farmers from Fisherman's Paradise. Julie and Leon Murray, who own a number of horses plus a couple of horse trailers, bravely agreed to allow Rob to haul their old horse trailer to Crookwell, some 220km away, on the proviso that he bring back with him their order of young trees (and the horse trailer).

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Image 2: Transporting trees in a horse trailer

With trailer attached, Rob set off from the coast for Crookwell - or, more precisely, for Laggan, a tiny village in the Upper Lachlan Shire, with a population of 358. Because no (hu)man should work on an empty stomach, he'd wisely booked a table for lunch at the delightful country restaurant, Laggan Pantry, owned and operated by Evan and Sally.

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Image 3: Laggan Pantry, 1 Peelwood Road, Laggan, NSW

Sufficiently victualed, and with several dozen trees transferred from Ben's truck into the Murray's horse trailer, it was time for a spot of sightseeing in Crookwell.

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Image 4: The first of the young trees are added to the horse trailer ahead of the return-trip to the coast

Crookwell is a lovely small town, but its absolute gem is Lindner Quality Socks, owned and run by Andrew Lindner, a 10th generation sock-maker whose family has been manufacturing socks for over 300 years. (Watch the excellent video on the history of Lindner Quality Socks on the company's website.) Lindner socks are amazing - comfortable, warm, natural, luxurious - and Rob couldn't resist buying a few pairs for himself and Carey-Ann.

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Image 5: Lindner socks, deserving of all superlatives

Back at the farm, with the trees offloaded at their final destination, Rob marked out the exact planting locations - avoiding overhead powerlines and subterranean waterpipes, plus a wombat burrow or two. Thank god for blue tail paint and luxuriously comfortable socks worn with mongrel boots. 

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Image 6: X marks the spot

When there are dozens of trees to plant, it's time to bring in the big toys. And the bloke with the big toys is Clint from Croobyar Excavations.

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Image 7: Clint from Croobyar Excavations digging planting holes in no time at all

With the planting holes in place, the barerooted trees are added individually, along with starters and fertilisers, to their hole-y homes.

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Image 8: Bundled barerooted trees waiting to be planted into their new locations

Tree protectors, from Planting Systems Australia, in Pambula, are placed around each new tree, and barbed wire fencing is put up to keep curious, hungry heifers away from the trees' leaf shoots. While the rows of pink cones across the farm might suggest that Rob has embraced Barbie-core, the pink protectors help the trees grow. As explained on the PSA website, visible light can be split into different colours, and green leaves photosynthesise best under red light conditions. By providing soft red-pink lighting, the Barbie-style cone protector turbo-charges the tree's photosynethic growth.


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Image 9: Pink protectors for good growth and barbed wires to prevent heifers nibbling on young shoots

Each tree is then watered by hand, and watered again every couple of days, to help their delicate toes settle into the farm's nutrient-rich soils. Given how little rain we've had this winter and spring, hand-watering remains essential. A big thanks, too, to Hemmi (aka Colin) who has watered each one of these young trees by hand, ensuring they survive this really dry, very hot spell of weather across the South Coast. Hopefully, Hemmi's rain dancing will deliver a few life-giving showers and thunderstorms soon enough.