Biodiversity: Nature by another Name

Biodiversity: Nature by another Name

Biodiversity underpins the health of our planet and informs everything down to the taste of a grain, the strand of a cloth and a sip of water. All things we as humnans rely on to support our most basic needs. Yet, nature and wildlife are declining around the world at an unprecedented rate.

Together we can stop it. But only if we join together and chose the most important thing to each of us to protect.

What is the most important element – animal, bird, plant or place – that would you protect if you could?

Share your wishlist on the comments below.

The Black Cockatoo

The Black Cockatoo

They slice the upper eddies in threes
Skimming as high as your eye can see
Those triads of nature’s engineering
Unchallenged, aloft, domineering.

Their piercing, haunting, hunting cry
Clearing the sky above and below
Heralding an ancient otherness
Long before you see those black cockatoos.

Oooh, they make my heart start
To hear that evocative location cry
Like the call of the mammoth of the deep
Reaching the bowels of pre-history
Stirring the depths of the dark beyond
And in mea tribal sense of unbounded freedom.

Louise Denver
Ross Glen Easter 2021
Rusty Black Cockatoo by VInod Ralh

From little things big things grow – our family and other animals!

From little things big things grow – our family and other animals!

Imagine this – Mum, Dad and five kids (ages 6, 9, 15, 17 and 19), sell their place in Nambucca Heads on NSW’s mid north coast and arrive at their new home – 100 acres of trees and grass – with one feature, a windmill!

No electricity, no water, no house, not even a shed, but heaps of enthusiasm and the thrill of being part of a collective dream for a family farm.

The family cooked up their vision when Dad, Stephen Schofield, and Mum, Melanie – both teachers – had set off round Australia with all five kids 18 months prior.

That was in 2014. Now in 2016, having immersed themselves in the environment and learnt all they could about camping, biodiversity, farming and having fun on the land, they were ready to embark on another adventure.

And what an adventure it has been!

From little things …

Now five years on, the family live in the house the three eldest kids built under the watchful eye of a semi-retired builder.

They have two water bores piped to taps around the property. The shed also houses a stand-alone solar operated burgeoning egg and meat business. And the family have a teaching business, an Airbnb business and offers farm stays!

The remaining adults on the property, Dad, Mum and 20-year-old Bethany, as well as the two youngest girls, now 11 and 14, either earn their living or an income from the property, supplemented for mortgage purposes, by Stephen’s part time teaching in a local primary school and the special ed unit in Casino High School.

The two eldest boys, now 24 and 22, live on the Gold Coast, where they turned their house building skills into trades, securing apprenticeships and employment as boiler maker and carpenter respectively. Josh, the eldest, also gets to the farm every other weekend to lend a hand.

And other animals…

So now, on Gracemere Farmstead close to Yorklea, some 225-300 km northwest of Nambucca Heads, the Schofields, along with caring for Melanie’s 91-year-old dad, have egg laying and meat free range chickens, four rotating duck yards, geese, two horses who hang with the 25 cows, and seven goats who follow the cows to eat the weeds, five donkeys and separately kept, but also pasture-raised, pigs.

Bethany manages the pasture-raised meat side of the family business, selling the packaged duck, chicken, pork and eggs, in Lismore, Bellingen and Yamba markets, as well as home deliveries in the area.

The two youngest girls, manage the egg layers, with Chloe (14) responsible for the chickens, and Tahlia (11) the ducks. They both get the money from the eggs Bethany sells, and use a simple spreadsheet to allocate income to buy any necessary feed.  Good maths skills as part of home schooling.

On a big farm bench, in a family production line, the Schofields do all their own packaging with a couple of machines and are planning to double their current output.  “Although the farm is for us and our family,” says Stephen. “We always wanted to share what we were doing on a mixed animal and cropping family farm business with others.”

Big Things

Today, five years on Gracemere Farmstead is a completely stand-alone solar operated business with 70 solar panels tied into one battery bank.

The panels on the shed and the house roofs generate all their electricity. Given no connection when they first moved in and the fact that to connect to the mains would have cost the same as solar, the family used their savings in a one-off cost, to install solar.

“As you can imagine we do need a lot of freezer and fridge space to house the meat when it returns from the abattoir,” Stephen said. “We’re really happy with it.

“In five years, we’ve done a lot. It’s been a really busy and enjoyable journey. Melanie loves the farm life. She is here fulltime. Bethany is very committed, and the younger girls love it. Actually, our visitors – whether that is Brian Wehlburg the agriculturalist or our Airbnb guests – are all amazed at their enthusiasm.”

The family has divided the labour and hard work between them, employing farm workers to do fencing and other specialised skills. “They are heaps quicker than I am,” Stephen explains.

As a primary school teacher from Kindy to Year 6 for 20 years, and a principal for a number of years in Canberra and Nambucca Heads – a profession that he loves – Stephen wants to boost the pre-COVID school excursions to the property that are allowed once more. And Stephen is also keen to involve high schools, both in the region and beyond.

He has developed programs that focus on ecosystems, animal care, conservation, farming and bush survival skills. Harking back to his own childhood of a Bear Grylls-type outdoors program, Stephen successfully tested the water with a group of indigenous and non-indigenous students who came every Friday for a term from Coraki Primary School.

The program combined various hands-on experiences that built confidence and know-how around working on a farm, and also helped with literacy and numeracy, enabling the teachers to link it to the curriculum.

“It was really successful,” Stephen explains. And has laid the groundwork for another plan to offer the autistic kids Stephen currently educates farm work experience. The vision is that by becoming familiar with animal care and rescue, they could possibly be readied for ranger work with Parks for instance.

Never stop learning because life never stops teaching…

A lot of Stephen and Melanie’s knowledge was gained from other farmers as well as learning from people like Brian Wehlburg. Stephen has just completed his holistic management course spread across eight face to face days, with assignments and zoom meetings over four months – (see link to ‘From fires to drought’ story). Bethany also undertook a permaculture course at TAFE.

Stephen explains, “We needed to equip ourselves with knowledge, not just rely on trial and error. We have deliberately formed networks with other farmers, who as well as sharing their skills and knowledge, have become really good friends.”

What the Schofields have discovered is that they have found networks of people who share a love of nature and are committed to ethically caring for the animals for which they have stewardship.

“I feel really supported, especially having grown up in Sydney and Canberra. And even though I loved animals as a kid, I didn’t actually start out as a farmer until I was 45. Yet I didn’t feel pushed out because I wasn’t a generational farmer. I think as a small farm running a holistic management business – you automatically have a connection.”

Last Word…

And just in case you thought doing their own growing, packaging, labelling, and selling and a plan to double the output – was all work and no play – Mum and Dad Schofield are off for a weekend away to celebrate their wedding anniversary!

‘Be humble, be teachable and always keep learning’

Find out more about Gracemere Farmstead hosted by Stephen and Melanie Schofield:

Author: Louise Denver

From fire to farm .. from drought to life .. one man’s story

From fire to farm .. from drought to life .. one man’s story

What does a man, who grew up on a huge tobacco farm in Zimbabwe, developed 140,000 acres of African wildlife business for tourists, and helped manage cattle stations in Central Queensland, do?

Become a regenerative agriculturalist, educator and environmentalist, that’s what! 

As Aristotle said: ‘We are the environment.’

If we zoom out for a moment, we can get it, says Brian Wehlburg. We all want to be loved and respected. We all have feelings and values. No-one wakes up wanting to destroy their farm or their country. We don’t want to be wrestling with apocalyptic fires, with hard dry-caked paddocks, with dead plants and animals.

We all want a happy life, with clean water in the creeks, carbon in the soil, good food in our bellies and some money in our wallets.

Well, the truth is we have gone from the Bronze Age to Space in a matter of 600 years. So, we have the knowledge. We understand biodiversity – why microbes, fungi and now viruses, matter.  But we’ve also confounded ourselves with complexity. So much so, we can’t really see the wood from the trees. So, we mostly only focus on making money.

And there’s nothing wrong with that says Brian. But if we only do one thing, we end up ignoring the complexity of reality and make bad choices. In this way we are likely to end up depleting our resources, destroying our opportunities and turning what we loved into a dust.

Whether in a village hall, on a tree stump, or sitting on a tombstone in a cemetery, these are some of the opening thoughts that Brian Wehlburg shares in his Inside Outside Management world.

And he does so now, with an ever-growing number of farmers, agriculturalists, students, environmentalists, families and just plain interested and curious folk. And now he is backed by a lifetime of experience in diverse environments and some excellent Board Member appointments.

Brian often references, ‘It’s not the cow but the how’. Telling us that hard-hoofed animals and ruminants, matter! Reminding us how ruminants and plants evolved together. Think megafauna and their big stomachs and plants. Think 60 billion bison roaming the huge North American plains.

Photo by Juraj Valkovic on

He explains how the guts of ruminants break down the carbon in plants. In their stomachs the anaerobic conditions produce methane. Once airborne, the gas returns to earth in a virtuous circle to feed the plants and once again enriches the soil with carbon.  A cycle that has been going on ever since animals and plants evolved together on the planet.

The ruminants’ hard hoofs also break up the soil’s crust, loosening it into a fluffy covering to receive raindrops and seed. But only if you keep the animals moving. Continuous hoof action compacts the ground and leads to dead soil. Constantly moving stock, bunched together, mimics the natural herds that stayed in packs avoiding or hunting predators, and was always on the move.

Envisage a bush track, the compacted path to the Hills Hoist, or the hard sand on the beach from the plodder, as opposed to the loose sand from the jogger, and you get the picture.

In Murwillumbah, Northern NSW, Brian tells us of a farmer who moves large herds of cows regularly. Their dung and urine enrich the soil. They eat or trample the weeds and pasture. On this particular property this stock management has built up the soil’s carbon content from a former 4% to a current 14%. Many cropping soils have only 1% carbon.

Brian also shares the story of Stephen Scholfield, who with his family manages Gracemere Farmstead near Lismore NSW. His nine- and ten-year-old daughters show visitors around their farm. They take you to where the goats are eating the blackberries and lantana. To the pigs enriching the soil, the ducks enjoying the creek and the donkeys that keep the foxes away, letting the chickens roam free.

This family uses its animals to create a biodiverse farm and a biodiverse environment. They use regenerative farm practices to restore biodiversity and store atmospheric carbon in the soil to reduce climate change. And even the primary school age girls already know the rudiments of business, and how many eggs etc. they are producing.

Photo by Brett Jordan on

But what have Brian Wehlburg and BEATS in common? Other than their passion for biodiversity? A love of the land and all life, not just that which is endangered or threatened. And a vision to ‘zoom out’, and above all take an active role in listening to the planet, to improve it, not destroy it.

‘We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.’  Aldo Leopold

Brian is teaching Allan Savory’s Holistic Management in Bathurst NSW, Bega NSW, Lismore NSW, Merriwa NSW, Maitland NSW, Gosford NSW, Koyuga VIC, Yarck VIC, Bairnsdale VIC, Warragul VIC, Albany WA, Muresk Ins. WA.  See more here…

Let’s Save Australia – theBEATS Anthem

Let’s Save Australia – theBEATS Anthem

Lyrics by John Carroll and Louise Denver

Music Composed by Vee Malnar

Vocals: Ana Key

Uke: Ole Nielsen

Bass: Keith Joliffe

Drums: Stephen Deakin

We’re the wallaby and kangaroo
The possum and the quoll
The koala and the platypus
The emu and the mole

The wombat and the bilby
in the trees and in the sand
We are part of life’s great circle
We make this great brown land


Rusty Kangaroo by VInod Ralh

We’re the source, we are the cycle
From an ancient life we come
We share the earth, 
We need your voice
Sing out, shout out, Australia
Save our Australia 


Rusty Black Cockatoo by Vinod Ralh

We’re the kookaburra and parrot
The cockatoo and gannet
The noisy miners and galah 
The lizard and echidnas

We’re the frogmouth and rosella
The magpie …and goanna
The pelican and fairy wren
Black swan and marsh hen


Rusty Echidna by VInod Ralh

We’re the source, we are the cycle
From an ancient life we come
We share the earth, 
We need your voice
Sing out Australia. Shout out,Australia 
Let's save Australia 


Rusty Wombat by VInod Ralh

We are frogs and we are dragons
We’re crocodiles and clams
We’re the bee that brings you honey
We keep those pests in hand

We’re the butterfly, the termite
The sharks and coral trout
We’re angelfish and sturgeons
We’re what we shout about.


Rusty Platypus by VInod Ralh


We’re the source, we are the cycle
From an ancient life we come
We share the earth, 
We need your voice
Sing out, Australia. Shout out,Australia
Let's save Australia 

We’re the source, we are the cycle
From an ancient life we come
We share the earth, 
We need your voice
Sing out, Australia. Shout out Australia
Save our Australia
Let's Save Australia.


Rusty Koala by Vinod Ralh