As the drought drags on and we see trees dying in the paddocks, one tree stands out. It is the hardy Kurrajong, with its bright green foliage. It is a broad domed tree offering cool shade for the cattle and they seem to be thriving in these dry conditions.
Indigenous people utilised the tree for a variety of purposes, taking fibre from the inner bark to create nets to catch birds and fish. The tap roots and seeds of young trees were used as a source of food.
In this current drought farmers are turning back to the kurrajong as a source of fodder for cattle and lopping the trees at the beginning or end of winter. One farmer at Boggabri has lopped 600 trees and he said that without the trees he would have been ‘up the creek without a paddle.’
One hundred years ago on our property, kurrajongs were also lopped. From 1918-1920 there was a long drought and one man could lop enough branches to provide feed for 80 or 90 cattle. On Wootton five men using half axes lopped kurrajongs and white box but only the kurrajongs were good feed for sheep and cattle.
Today you can still see the notches cut into the trunks of the old trees that enabled the men to climb up to the higher branches. No cherry pickers then!
And we are following the pattern of the previous owners and experiencing the same conditions as the 1920 drought.