Promoting understanding
and compassion for animals

About the property

Tallara Park is a 38 acre property in the Blue Mountains about 90 minutes from Sydney. My partner Greg and I bought the property in August 2000. The land is an interesting mix of rich basalt soils and sandstone bushland. It is amazing to walk through the property as it is almost like walking from England with the green fields and cool climate gardens straight into the Australian bush.

About the property 1

Of the 38 acres approximately 4 acres are gardens, 15 acres are cleared and fenced into paddocks for the animals and the remaining 18 acres are native bush. However the entire back of the property was cleared about 20 years ago by a previous owner who wanted to plant a vineyard, so it is not dense bush.

I believe the property was originally a citrus orchard, then planted with apples and run as a commercial orchard for many years. However it had been used as a weekender for about 12 years prior to us buying it and so had fallen into a state of disrepair. We did think about trying to rehabilitate some of the trees (there were 600 apple trees) in those first couple of years however some of the old orchardists from the district told us that it was pointless. The trees were that old and diseased that the best thing to do would be to pull them all out and start again. The first year we were here we would have been lucky to get a box of apples off the 600 trees. So we cleared the orchard in 2002 and began fencing into paddocks for the animals we knew would soon arrive.

The back of the property contains a breathtaking 180 degree view of the Sydney coastal plain, however there are numerous places throughout the property which have amazing views (including our chook pen). On a clear day, you can see the Centrepoint Tower, as well as three groups of buildings which are Sydney, North Sydney and Chatswood. There are numerous other strange icons which we would like to identify including a blazing set of lights which appear intermittently (might be Homebush stadium).

We are blessed with lovely neighbours on both sides and the back of the property adjoins the Blue Mountains National Park.

About the property 2

The paddocks

We have eight paddocks of various sizes.  Fencing is an expensive exercise and really needs to be done in stages as we can afford it. To date, the fencing and four shelters that we have currently have has cost approximately $40 000. Paddocks need to be rested or they become non-productive so not only do we need to have enough paddocks to accommodate all our animals but one or two spare at any one time – resting and recuperating.

I like each paddock to have a three sided shed to provide the animals with protection against the elements. We are about 950 metres above sea level so we occasionally get light snow in winter and the August winds are freezing.

About the property 3

Weed control is a important activity with most of the weeds (Patterson’s Curse, Shepherds Purse, Fireweed) being brought in, in the hay we buy for the animals over winter. A few times a year I work my way around each paddock, manually pulling out the weed species before they go to seed and manage to keep it fairly well under control. We don’t irrigate and rely on the usually decent rains that the area receives although there have been a few very dry years where we have had to supplement the animals feed even over the summer months.

The gardens

There are two main gardens – the original gardens around the house which we are slowly rehabilitating and adding to, and our new herb, flower and vegetable gardens.

The garden 1

The original gardens contain a variety of trees, many of which were planted between 70 and 80 years ago. We have massive pine trees, liquid ambers, deodars as well as an enormous blue spruce and magnolia tree. There are also Japansese maples, nyssa’s, camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and tree ferns. Expanses of green lawn complement these beautiful mature trees and I have made numerous mulch gardens around the bottoms of the trunks.

The garden 2

A secret garden also exists which believe it or not, was not even discovered until we owned the property. It is built around a small dam. There is a pump on this dam which pumps water up to a high point in the garden where it runs down a series of cascades back into the dam. There is even a small bridge over this waterway. There are also lovely raised garden beds, a cleared grassy patch and a children’s cubby house, all of which was completely covered in leaves and dirt and rotted organic matter. We are slowly cleaning this area up but it has been a difficult area to work in with young children as it is overgrown and was a bit of a snake haven. It is also dangerous as there is there dam. It certainly looks 100% better than it did but I have great plans for this area, now that we have a bit more time and the children are a little older. I want to clean it up, plant a wider variety of plants and replace the bridge and build some stone walls and garden paths. It is an area of great peace and tranquillity, with almost a childhood, dreamlike quality about it. You can keep up to date with the progress of this garden rehabilitation on the main blog.

The garden 3

The other area of gardens is the herb and flower gardens. This is a patch of land that is sunny, with great, deep, rich soils. We fenced it off so that we could grow herbs and veges without them being eaten by the wallabies. There are seven gardens, four of which contain perennial herbs, one which contains approximately 135 dahlia plants and then two vegetable gardens (which at the present time are unplanted). I am really interested in herbs because they are so useful and hardy. They don’t need to be planted every year, they are generally drought and pest resistant and a lot of them even self seed. In addition they have so many uses – medicinal, cleaning, insect repellents, cooking. My herb gardens were planted over five years ago and are now well established, aromatic and beautiful to look at. While I do use some of the herbs, I haven’t had a lot of time to experiment and am looking forward to doing this in the future – for example natural cleaners, insect repellents (fleas, mosquitoes), herbal fertilizers, pest sprays, ect.  I will share my results and outcomes on the blog for people who are interested.

The garden 4

I also like perennial flowers. The term perennial describes a plant which has a lifespan of more than two years. The flowers that I grow include Dahlias (my favourites), Gladioli’s and Daffodils , although I will probably include many more in the years to come. Flower growing is fun and rewarding, especially with the type of flowers that I grow. You don’t really need to do anything to them except tie them up as they grow (which is quite big job when you have 135 plants) and then cut the flowers and then cut the dead plants off when they have died down at the end of autumn. I bunch up the flowers and sell them at a fruit stall up the road where they are very popular. I also have fresh flowers for my house and my friends for five months of the year.

The vegetable gardens are at present not planted with anything except weeds and I fear that we may miss this season as I just don’t time to cultivate and plant in the foreseeable future. There are two vege gardens which have in the past grown a variety of veges including corn, zucchinis, tomatoes, silverbeet, rhubarb and strawberries.  We are lucky to have a never ending supply of animal manures (cow, horse, alpaca and chicken) to supplement our rich, well drained soil, so in theory we should be able to grow amazing vegetables. However, like everything, growing veges takes a lot of time and how much you get out of it depends on how much you put into it.  Anyway I will keep you updated on the progress of the vegetable gardens as well as how they respond to the various herbal applications that I will be trailing on them.

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