Jumbunna means a place to meet and talk. Recently I sat next to Brian Enbom as we talked about walking the Green Carpet. He had generously interrupted his morning to fit our conversation into his crowded day. Like all good farmers, he always has another thing to do. He manages the 148-hectare farm, his many Landcare commitments and a day job.
Brian makes sure that I am safely ensconced in the sturdy Gator as we leave the machine shed. Along the laneway he hops out to drop the hot tapes. As the slope of the land increases we reach a metal farm gate that holds back a herd of beefies. He lets me open this gate, knowing I can't possibly get booted. A hearty “yar!” clears a path between the expectant cattle as he deftly steers into their paddock.
He waits as I fumble with the old chain to secure the gate. We trundle up an ever steepening hill. He navigates grassy contours with swift competence born of familiarity. Brian knows this country, "I was driving a Grey Fergie here from age 10. WorkCover would have a fit these days." He laughs. Calf rearing and motorbikes were part of growing up.
He pulls on the handbrake and directs my attention to ridges that define the boundary, pointing out lines of trees. Brian’s involvement in Landcare started around 20 years ago. Enforced rest after an accident back in the `90s gave him time to consider the fundamentals of dairy farming. In earlier days the idea was to clear as much of the land as possible. Concerned about stocking levels, he looked at the landslips and erosion. He started planting trees. Now there are thousands.
The herd of cattle gather around us. He likes working with cattle. They have a calmness about them. More so since he went over to beef. Less work, even if the money’s less regular. “You can talk to cattle.” He smiles a lot during our conversation. They used to milk 220 cows here. Brian always preferred being with the cows rather than the tractors. Now there are between 250 to 300 cattle gently fattening on the green Gippsland grass.
An exposed coal seam on the property is a reminder of the days when there was a thriving coal mine on the other side of the road. One hundred and fifty dwellings once stood between this property and the train line. Electricity came to Jumbunna in 1930 but the coal mine was starting to fade from view even then. The train line disappeared in the `50s. Today Jumbunna township consists of 13 houses and about 30 residents.
Brian talks about the early days of Landcare in Korumburra and Jumbunna. There was no carefully calculated plan, he doesn’t count the trees; just commits to add to last year’s effort each year.
All the rivers and creeks on this property have been fenced. The banks and parts of the slopes have been replanted with natives. “The trouble with fencing is the extra effort in weed control that it needs. The difficulty is getting in there and spraying the weeds without killing the young trees.” He isn’t daunted by hiking the steep slopes with a 20-litre backpack sprayer to get the job done.
The property is home to one of Gippsland’s endangered species. There is a spot where you can hear giant Gippsland earthworms gnawing away beneath the soil. Sir David Attenborough spent a week filming part of his Life in the Undergrowth documentary here.
Brian points across to the big hill. It's steep. So steep it’s hard to imagine walking up it. "In the old days we called it 'The Island'. It had a creek almost all the way around which we had to cross, often balancing on a fallen tree to get to the other side. My brothers and I often went over to the top of the hill on weekends to roll rocks down. They would build up enough speed to completely clear the creek and keep going." Now thousands of young trees are spreading across that hillside.
More hard work but Brian is modest about his efforts. “I was not alone in any of this,” he says. “Cheryl [his wife] should receive equal recognition as she been involved on the complete journey."
Back in the Gator. A warm house beckons; the clock is ticking.
Along their own Landcare journey, they've drawn many young people to the movement. In San Remo hundreds of school children were given tours of nearby properties and encouraged to take part in large-scale replanting. The three Korumburra schools have enmeshed Landcare in their core values.
“The younger ones are always keen,” Brian says, but they can go through phases of disinterest. He laughs as he recounts the time “the year nines went feral and started throwing seedlings at each other”. He found something else to do until the kids ran out of steam. Order was restored and the planting was completed.
A prime element in encouraging young Landcarers was regular visits to Mr Henry’s Reserve at Loch, and Mt Worth, where remnants of the original South Gippsland forest can be found. Perhaps the most emblematic project he has led through Junior Landcare was at Glenn Forbes where the headland of Candowie Reservoir was replanted as part of the 90 Years of Scouts commemoration.
For many years he was president of Korumburra Landcare and the Powlett Project, an extensive, long-term scheme that has resulted in corridors of Landcare plantings lining the roads, a highly visible advertisement for the cause. He was vice-chairman of the Bass Coast Landcare Network and is still part of the employment committee.
He also facilitates one of the network’s farmer discussion groups. He is helping to roll out the use of intensive artificial insemination to impregnate an entire herd in one day. Properly managed, the resulting mass calving could be more cost effective than the normal routine of calving.
So much still to talk about but Brian has to leave for his day job. He pulls on well-worn boots, and makes sure I haven’t inadvertently left anything behind.
As I drive away I reflect that the seeds that Brian Enbom has planted within the Gippsland Landcare network will grow for many generations.
Landcarer of the year
A founding Landcare member and weed warrior for 25 years, Brian Enbom’s massive effort was celebrated at last month’s West Gippsland Green Carpet Showcase where he was named Bass Coast Landcare Network’s individual landcarer of 2015.
Under his leadership, Korumburra has maintained a membership base of 50 volunteers. “Brian has a great ability to communicate with all types of farmers and tree changers and has been instrumental in recruiting new volunteers to Landcare,” West Gippsland Landcare Groups co-ordinator Dave Bateman said.