Grace Farm has been part of the Augusta Margaret River Shire’s “Our Patch” programme for a number of years and we look forward to the annual visit from Cowaramup Primary Year 6 class in early spring. Our Patch is a brilliant programme allowing students to visit sites with a water catchment and to learn about different land uses. We have been told the undeniable highlight of the day each year is finding scorpions and hearing about their fascinating habits and habitat with our multi-talented viticulturist Tim Quinlan at Grace Farm. Tim shares his knowledge with the kids and his passion for the scorpion is palpable. He explains that the sandy soils inhabited by scorpions are also where we find tiny wildflowers, trigger plants, golden nuytsia floribunda and a variety of orchids. The kids ask lots of questions and learn that scorpions are very much part of an ancient and fascinating ecosystem.
This year, after a full half hour learning about scorpions, the school group moved along the drive to our Stage 3 cabernet block where Tim spoke to them about land management and growing vines. He explained that the very sandy soil that the scorpions love cannot grow grapes, which need more fertile soil. He held up pieces of rock, which worn down, are the basis of the rich granitic sub-soil. As the children looked down the valley he explained that all the best wines in the world are grown on slopes. He talked about the use of composts and mid-row planting of nitrogen-producing cover crops, rather than harsh chemicals, stressing how at Grace Farm we are always mindful of using natural fertilisers that won't impact adversely on the Cowaramup Brook.
The brook was the last site visited. The kids walked down to where the brook has been dammed and did some foreshore sampling with their nets as part of their study of macro-invertebrates. Michelle Keppel from Nature Conservation highlighted that this is an example of a pristine environment. She said macro-invertebrates would revel in this kind of habitat, where small water plants combined with leaf litter, provide ideal food and shelter. Magnificent mature karris and marris immediately indicate a different soil type along the brook’s edge. The Year Six class plied their nets with great enthusiasm and placed the various plants and macro-invertebrates in sampling containers for observation, before returning them to their wonderful natural habitat.
There are some videos available on social media if you would like to take a look HERE.