FOUR decades ago Daryl and Margaret Hook bought a "green desert" in Pound Creek.
These days there are so many trees that Daryl worries about long-neck turtles being crushed in his driveway. As he demonstrates how the turtles turn in circles to dig holes for their eggs, he talks like the coach of a team that's one point behind at three quarter time. We need to get out there and guard those damned eggs, then plant more trees and spread some compost tea. Then plant more trees.
I can’t quite believe he’s pulled off those giant boots and called full time. Sure, there’s a new house, another farm and some money in the bank but who’ll be jigging around Pound Creek to spread all that Landcare love?
Looking back, Daryl and Margaret always had a game plan. Here it is in his own words.
EVENTUALLY every farmer has to leave their beloved farm for the next generation or the next owner. This piece of Pound Creek is the third farm that Margaret and I have owned and it’s the hardest to leave. We’ll miss the compost tea and the birds at the back door.
When we arrived 40 years ago it had been so badly overgrazed that four struggling swamp gums were the only trees on the entire property. Even the bracken fern was gone, devoured by a mob of hungry beef cattle.
From a farmer’s perspective the biggest benefit came from cutting six bare paddocks into 22 paddocks with thick shelter belts at their boundaries. These perimeter trees protect the farm animals from the gales that blow in from the Southern Ocean. The trees provide warmth in winter and shade in summer, so the animals are healthier and actually consume less grass to maintain the same condition.
‘You can’t buy a farm just to watch the roos’
Back in 2015 Geoff Ellis interviewed Daryl Hook and found a farmer juggling the challenges of sustainability: environmental, financial and personal.
As well as increasing productivity, trees have made us money in other ways.
The farm we sold to finance our Pound Creek paradise had been beautifully re-treed by us, so it sold for ‘top dollar’. Margaret’s family once owned large tracts of Pound Creek and we were lucky enough to get enough money to purchase some of that land.
The swamp gums that now thrive in our garden were dug out of the neighbour’s property. I couldn’t get them to grow anywhere else while the other thousands of trees Marg and I planted have become endemic.
When we close the gate for the last time there'll be too many reasons to be sad. We’ve created an entire ecosystem. Moor hens and swamp hens hang around our back door. Big kangaroos have found a home in the garden. So have small swamp rats. Wrens and honeyeaters flit through the foliage. We can see them from our loungeroom. Bird song underscores each day.This place is now a nature lovers’ heaven. Who would want to leave ?
Daryl and Margaret Hook are not giving up the land entirely. They have kept 60 hectares at Pound Creek which they are leasing out.