Rail Trails are fabulous use for disused railway lines. The Warrnambool to Port Fairy Rail Trail passes through Koroit, and to make the most of the currently disused Koroit Station, 600 native plants were planted in a sympathetically landscaped fashion around it. With help with funding from the “Victorian Landcare Program Volunteering Action Grant” and as part of the social inclusion ethos of Karingal (one of the organizations which assist adults with a disability in the Warrnambool district), five of their clients and a carer took part along with two Rail Trail members and a collie dog. We are not sure who had the most fun. This was an experiment to see how Karingal clients and community groups could work together. Basalt 2 Bay Landcare Network facilitated this combined activity, and all who took part now want to do more things together.
The next exciting environmental event for the Karingal clients was on a Saturday morning to join in with Warrnambool Coastcare monthly weeding, planting and mulching activity at the Harris Street Reserve. This reserve is developing from its original ‘grass and path’ format into a landscaped area with lots of endemic plants on one side of the path, giving a nice view of the Merri River that attracts lots of birds, which were previously missing. There was no shortage of walkers & cyclists using the path and thanking the volunteers for making the area so much nicer. It’s nice to be appreciated.
A total of about 50 people took part during the morning. One of the Karingal clients has a special interest in endemic plants and knows lots of the plants that were being planted. He helped other members with the “How big does it grow?” and “How close should we plant them?” questions. Another just loves wheeling a wheelbarrow around. He earned his morning tea by wheeling most of the mulch to where it needed to go, and made lots of friends along the way. The Karingal clients had so much fun that they wanted to come back the next day to do more. They were told that they had to wait a whole month as the working bees were once a month. They decided that Karingal should join Warrnambool Coastcare so that they would get each newsletter and be able to join in as often as they could, hopefully each month. Karingal is now a member of Warrnambool Coastcare.
Each September, Year 9 (70 students) from Gilson College in Melbourne’s West visits the south west for their camp. They stay at the Scout camp at Brucknell for 10 nights, and spend 9 days engaged in service activities, which may be environmental, social or for each other (they even have a daily catering group which cooks dinner for the entire group).
Killarney Coastcare (KCC) hosted 10 students and one teacher in the ‘bird group’. Their activities were centered on birds that use the beach and estuary for all or some of year for feeding and/or breeding - specifically the Orange-bellied parrot and Hooded plover, but we also included Red-capped Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones and various Raptors.
The first day that the students were with us, we made seed balls that would be tossed on their fifth and last day with Killarney Coastcare, the following Monday. Four Karingal clients and a carer joined in to make a total of 4 large buckets of seed balls. Seed balls are a convenient option to use for direct seeding in places that have limited access for machinery, or where machinery would cause environmental damage.
Seed balls are made from a mix of clayish soil, compost (we used zoo poo) and a small number of mixed seeds. The soil and compost are thoroughly mixed, and a small handful is squeezed together to form a ball about the size of a golf ball. As it is squeezed together, a few seeds from the separate bowl are pressed into the centre. The ball is rolled in your hands until it holds its shape very well. The best balls were well-rolled and held together when tossed. The other consideration is to have seeds of species that have similar requirements in each seed ball. We divided ball-rollers into 2 groups, and each group had seeds for a particular zone of wetness.
The balls were laid out on newspaper to dry, keeping the wetness zones separate, and hands and clothes were washed. Tossing them was even more of a highlight than getting dirty. If the Year 9 students had fun, the Karingal clients had even more fun. Some clients had not spent much time at the beach, let alone a wild beach like The Cutting, where they went to toss the seed balls that they had made
The Karingal guys had to wait a few more weeks for their tossing session, but the wait was well worth it. Maybe next year we can have a joint seed ball tossing session?
Is environmental work supposed to be fun? The Karingal guys reckon so, and want to do more stuff that’s this much fun. They also like being part of what is going on, as well as giving something back to the community that supports them, though they might use different words to express it. The students enjoyed the interaction, and got to find out that people with all sorts of abilities can do things together and have fun. I think the technical word is integration.
If you would like the recipe for seed balls, contact Lou Hollis on 0408 527 670 or email@example.com , or just enter seed balls into your search engine.
Killarney Coastcare would like to thank Basalt 2 Bay Landcare Network for supporting us in this ongoing environmental work (and fun).