Save the Marwah Valley for all to see


By an occasional correspondent:

Denis Buchan BSc. MEngSc, past member Institional Engineers Australia

1) P1040432.JPG
2) Some of the guys forming a protest committee located in Marwah Valley


Section 1. The fabulous Marwah Valley- entrance way to Kishtwar National Park

Many of you may be wondering why a foreigner would pick this place the Marwah Valley to write about. Well the fact of the matter is I have been to this valley many times over the last 8 or so years. Before the problems in Kashmir erupted this valley was considered one of the treasured walks linking Kishtwar in Jammu to as far north as Sonamarg or even into Zanskar.

P1040404.JPG The valley is lined with deodar, chinar and walnut trees, wild strawberries, mushrooms and much more. My first visit stunned me as the Marwah river was so beautiful then with no roads and self sufficient villages along the way which still welcomes the few trekkers who venture this way. The government also recognized that the beauty of this area had to be preserved and made the largest national park in J&K Kishtwar National Park.

Perhaps the Indian Government thinks that these people are backward, maybe what one would call an indigenous people. But this is far from the truth. The kids all attend schools and want to learn. They also know how to entertain themselves. We talked about these things many times in my early visits. Yes they definitely needed better facilities for communication. Yes they needed a proper hospital and yes facilities for their schools. To some extent the people overcome these disadvantages as the non farming population spent the colder months in Kishtwar or Jammu.

These disadvantages have existed for a long time and the Government (State as well) should be embarrassed about how little help they have given these people. Strangely enough more money was spent on the Army and Police Force than help with these basic needs. Right up to the present minimum consultation with the people has not occurred. Good communication is a principle of good governance. I talk about these things not because I wish to cast blame but to highlight the ongoing problem leading to protests and more owing to the continuing lack of dialogue over the proposed flooding of the valley under this new proposed hydro-electric scheme.

P1040320.JPG Perhaps now is the time to describe how the combination of the Pakel, Burser dams Hydroelectric scheme is meant to work. There will be two dams built; the one near Akali called the Pakel Dul Dams the one connected to the Power Plant via tunnels. This earth filled dam is quoted as 167 metres high and its headwaters go back as far as Lopara with some of the lower village and prosperous rice paddies thereabouts all being flooded. The other dam is the Burser Dam whose primary function is to maintain a water flow to the Pakel dam when the rivers stopped flowing with the onset of winter. The contact for the Pakel Dam has been awarded to the Chenab Valley Power Project. This is a consortium. The water from the Pakel Dul Dam is delivered through two 7.2 diameter tunnels about 10km long to an underground power station near the village Dul where there are 4 by 250mw turbines to produce the design requirement of 1000mw.

The position of the Burser dam has a mighty impact on the Marwah Valley. The planners have obviously chosen this position because of the large amount of water that will be available. I suspect they didn’t even visit the area with all assessments being done by something like Google maps. It would seem to be the position chosen based on convenience rather than any considerations of what areas are populated.

Peter Burns

There were many characters in St. Helen’s Tasmania when we arrived on our yacht Joker having sailed down from Sydney to find out how the other world lived.

‘Joker”the boat we sailed to Tasmania


You take life somewhat for granted in those halcyon days rooming the east coast of Australia looking for the perfect place to stay.
For us once past the treacherous barway and following the leads that led us to the Township of St. Helens I said to Ann this looked like the place we were seeking. 
One of those personalities was Peter Burns. Over the years I have been blessed with seeing Peter and his wife Sue from time to time. But alas I must now admit that the labour of my life getting Eureka Farm up and running and keeping it going has often taken precedence over other things. ( my family surely will vouch for this confession)
Never the less for me Peter was an impressive fellow. Some may be surprised when I say I liked his straight shooting nature . As I got to know him it also became apparent that Peter’s way of doing things could ruffle feathers. 

Peter came to help me put the fame back together after the 2006 bushfires came to “Scamander.

The chronological sequence may be slightly askew as I recount now some of my experiences. Peter and his first wife had decided that the history of this area should be recorded. In what was later to become the St. Helen’s History room was established in the section of the same building that is now the Online Centre. Denny and Joy Walters, Jack and Dorothy Sutten, Ted Clayton and lots more were early enthusiasts. It was by no means an old mans club , all seem to be doing research on family histories using donated Apple computers or whatever. Material in the way of documents, momentos, artifacts and tools of bygone eras appeared. 
And it wasn’t confined to just backroom research. Peter felt the need to know all about the earlier tin mining history which was really the main industry and employer in this part of the world. Tin mining to some extent was just like gold mining. You could become wealthy or as often happened you just survived. There were great mines established such as the Anchor mine and trails leading to all the diggings. One trail that I know about was the Three Knots Trail which starts at the top of the Blue Tiers and goes north I believe to Boobyalla. 
Peter decided that we must find and mark the trail for future generations. I guess it wasn’t his first trip and so tramping the first part of the trail wasn’t very demanding for us. On the trip Denny Walters, Allan Woods from the Bush Mill , George Keri a photographer from Scamander , myself and a couple of others accompanied Peter. The trail goes skirts Mt. Michael and then descend into a beautiful rainforest. Myrtles, sassafras , celery top and more. The trail in place is stabilised with poles laid across the trail where it could be muddy. Slot cuts where the miners were working, concrete emplacements for pump housings, washed out dams that fed the sluices can all be seen if you are willing to look. And yes the track is so named Three Knots as this is what you see on the trees so that you don’t get lost. And that is just what happened to us. The knots disappeared and we  went on in what we thought would be the right direction. I consider myself a reasonable bushman but my experience finding your way in  rainforest isn’t strong. We got lost and night was descending. George was everyone’s favorite as he came prepared but just before night descended we found a knot.
Yes I was getting to know Peter. He spurred us all into looking into our history. One day Peter came to me with a plan. He wanted to promote tourism in St. Helens. He maintained that no one was going to do anything about it so he would. Yes Peter could be determined. (possibly an understatement). Would I help by using my yacht to promote the beautiful bay of St. Helens. No problem. We arrived on the appropriate day and Peter had arranged I think for Channel Ten to make the film and show it for a series of weeks on their station. (maybe the video is in someone’s archives but there seems to be little record of it on the internet). Well we get everything ready and there isn’t a drop of wind. A yacht drifting across the bay with limp sails is hardly going to impress tourists into visiting. Peter yells out form the wharf a big strong voice ‘ do something- I haven’t organised this for nothing’. Ok start the motor , complete a long circle to allow me to go full speed past the wharf. The sails fill, we lean on the opposite side and the video turns out great.
Somehow in our community people have trouble honoring the doers especially the ones that step on toes. Peter Burns is one such person. His efforts to do good things for St. Helen’s should have been recognised by those in control. We will miss you Peter. They don’t make them like that any more.

Hot- Hot-Hot

The weather is starting to cool off. Still night last night and quite cool. I had permission for a control burn off and was blessed with the expert help of the Scamander Fire Brigade. It is still very dry here and burn offs in thickly forested areas with a lot of undergrowth and fallen dead trees from the 2006 bushfire can lead to some very interesting times if things get out of control.


the area we are burning off is next to the main house

the burn off commences about 7:30pm

All went well until the next day. I started to clean up unburnt logs and fallen branches , also some stumps were alight and I keep these going.

Later I went to pick some fruit and was soon visited by a very worried wife. The fire had started up again on the fence line as a result of strong winds and was moving fast. Lots of smoke making it look worse than it was. Never the less it is a warning that although we should be dong burn offs at this time of year we shouldn’t relax our vigilance until the fire is completely out.



Horticultural Challenges


In my last post I talked about the particular summer we have been having. So hot and practically no rain for the entire summer. Amongst other things this led to a bumper crop of apricots.
We didn’t have hardly any last year and over the years transport difficulties have escalated making the sale of apricots and other stonefruit (with the possible exception of cherries ) difficult. As you can see a lot of the fruit dropped not just because we didn’t pick it but as a result of the drought and windy days.
My good friend Alan Savins identified fruit fly as a major threat to Tasmania many years ago. His prophecy at the time was ignored but now it has happened. Fortunately fruit fly checks have been going on for some time and the growers are aware it has entered the State. 
Which one is it: global warming or a one off hotter than normal summer. Does it matter? What does matter is the potential for wiping out the horticultural industry as we see it today. What happened to me this summer means fruit fly would have a great source of food and possibly spread like wire fire. (another threat to farming on the east coast).
My management practices will have to change. Many of my trees will have to be cut down so that fruit droppings are minimised. Throwing out unused fruit to the animals will have to be assessed too.
What do we do with waste fruit and general management practices need to be reassessed. Tasmania has been the lucky state horticulturally but those days look like coming to an end. Large scale producers relying on an export market must feel severely threatened. the spread of fruit fly has been stopped in the past probably by the cold winters we normally enjoy. But a hot summer followed by warmer winters creates a completely new scenario.
Backyard gardeners could be the avenue by which the spread of this terrible menace will be unconstrained. Likewise greenhouses create a warmer environment by which fruit fly can overwinter and survive to do more damage in the summer months.
Fruit fly control measures haven’t really stooped the southerly movement through Australia. Sterilisation of the mail fruit fly has helped and of course Bass strait has been a very useful Quarantine barrier but we can see now that it may not be good enough. 

Yes I am worried. Fruit fly getting into Tasmania is a major threat to all gardeners and measures to control it should be made transparent and immediate implemented.

Tasmania’s nemesis: Pokies

I would not normally make a political statement but for this election I will make an exception. I can’t see why the goal of eliminating poker machines in Tasmania shouldn’t be a bipartisan issue.
The fact that the Liberal Government supports the presence of poker machines in businesses such as pubs and casinos doesn’t do them any credit.

Gambling in this manner is practically a mindless activity which just like drugs, alcohol or eating can become addictive. It especially tends to affect those less able to afford it.
With the Farelll monopoly on gambling coming under review it is a golden opportunity to remove this form of gambling.
The ridiculous discussions about loss of jobs if pokies are removed is a further discrediting of the political system and in this case the Liberal Party. If one believed that pokies help create jobs why not escalate their spread and put them in schools, colleges hospitals on public transport and more. Of course everyone immediately recognises that this would be foolishness in the extreme. However just because we have adjusted to the present level of the pokie problem doesn’t make it a righteous one as the Government wants us to believe.
Tasmania promotes itself as a clean green state. A state with a difference, a state with a strong respect for its population. But on the downside the reality of this second statement needs to be seriously questioned. Mental illness , depression are at seriously high levels. Gambling is probably part of the mix causing this problem.
Removing pokies and showing the rest of Australia that we don’t need them should be part of  Tasmania’s well being. As far as jobs are concerned Tassie will survive with them them.

Our only choice therefore in this election but to vote LABOUR or the GREENS. Both parties support legislation to remove pokies from Tasmania.


Summer Joys and Woes`

It has been an interesting summer for us. Well that is one way of describing it. Certainly the driest year in the 26 years we have been settled in Tasmania,
We have been continually irrigating our row crops with mixed results. It is very difficult wetting sandy soil. The more you water the more likely you are to remove the nutrients that the plant needs. With rainfall the mechanism is different and the nutrients outside the rootzone can migrate back to the plant. We have had a couple of showers one of 30mm and the improvement in growth for the strawberries was impressive. But alas that was some time ago and now it is back to the dry conditions.
The main orchard  is some distance away from the farmhouse and much higher. It is on a north facing slope on sandy soil with hard pan less the a metre below the surface. Very poor soil obvious by the lack of vegetation outside the paddock. Even the bracken is having a hard time this year. Gums trees have also been dying. But inside the paddock we grow apricots, plums, citrus and other trees. The citrus have really struggled with many dying. These are shallow rooted trees and thus much more susceptible to drought. 

Gary picking apricts

the yellow carpet of Apricots

A different story for the apricots. Picked a couple of tons this year versus a negligible pick last year. Quality was very good too. Apricots unlike citrus have a deep root structure as they obviously liked these harsh conditions. There were so many that at least 8 tonnes were left and dropped to the ground. 

the 2017-2018 Berry and fruit season has started


Just starting to pick cherries


Blackberries are great


What a season – hardly any rain in the last 6 months. But amazingly lots of fruit. IN the tree crops cherries and apricots are now being picked. Lucky we have irrigation.

Just the same lots of damage from roos and possums who are desperate for food as the surrounding forests are without fodder.

We have lots of berries though. At present picking strawberries, raspberries, black berries, red currants and blackcurrants.

Our shop is open every day and lots of other goodies available. Ann is a great cook and berry desserts, smoothies and our own special icecream are awaiting your evaluation.

Blackcurrants- for 2017/18

The 2017-18 picking season of black currants has started. We are now sending blackcurrants by Express Post to Eastern States of Australia. These are fresh, vacuum sealed and can be eaten fresh or frozen when they reach their destination hopefully overnight.

We also have black currant cordial and jams available in our shop or online.

See full article from earlier post:

For ordering online  go to Farmhouse direct

lots of blackcurrants were picked

lots of blackcurrants are being hand  picked

Jobs at Eureka Farm

Update – 14th April 2018 
The picking season has just about finished. So we would still be interested in getting to know future applicants who live locally. This has become a recent requirement as we no longer provide accommodation. We appreciate those who have contacted us and if we let you down we apologise. Most of the time in the picking season we are very time short.

Looking for something to do. Part-time maybe. Picking fruit in the morning. This is a good way of earning pocket money for those extra expenses we all have. You don’t have to have had experience as we will teach you.

lots of blackcurrants were picked

lots of blackcurrants were picked

We are quite keen in knowing persons interested in some casual work who live in the Break O’Day Municipality. 


We are a multi faceted operation. We grow all sorts of berries; we  have over 2000 fruit trees including apples, pears and stonefruit. We value add by running a shop, producing icecream, sauces, jams and desserts.

A casual person would have to have the following :

  • be interested in working outdoors.
  • be in good health and reliable. 
  • can be of any age
  • flexible working days so that your life is not too disrupted.




Mulching and other crop improvements

Observations of our berry crops in particular showed poor growth and often heavy weed infestation at the end of last season. This was partly due to the very dry summer and the invasion of weeds and in particular twitch.

I decided that something had to be done. My first response was to hand spray with Basta herbicide. Basta is a glufosinate ammonium and is reported as not as systemic as glyphosate. I have been slow to get on top of just what this meant. Many of the perennials were killed but some broadleafs were not. ( eg buttercup and docks) .

Dormancy of the raspberry and other berry crops is important. Any green material will also be affected by these type of herbicides.

I am sure also that the  wet weather we have been having can pose a problem of herbicides coming in contact with root systems. (remember in many places we have sandy soil and hence no clays to immobilise penetrating herbicides)

I was getting my rows back in shape. It was difficult to tell whether the canes would be affected as they were dormant. But I think the final result was not good with a lot of cane dieback and the twitch quickly  reemerging. It showed up that weed infestations did drop. But digging around the roots showed that couch (twitch) rhizonomes were alive and active. I can’t use glyphosate as it would kill the plants.

I have used Fusilade Forte before but stopped for two reasons . One is it is very expensive perhaps 10 times the price of roundup. And it is very selective with no effect on broadleaf weeds. But I am told it will work on twitch as it is systemic enough to penetrate under the ground along the rhizonomes. This is still a work in progress and I am actually doing it backwards.

As the plants were not growing well I have added feed lot manure to all rows and then mulched with wheat straw which I manage to get. I hadn’t expected to be able to get it this year as farmers were not able to grow as much last year due to the dry season.

So all rows are mulched now but the twitch is reemerging but of course with some difficulty. When it is a little more established I will spray with fusilade. Apparently it doesn’t effect the other crops. The activity of the twitch has to be reduced as it is competing and straggling the  berry plants.


  • We were lucky to get large bales of wheat straw. But they were very hard to handle.

On top of all of this continual rains means that many fruilt trees won’t set fruit this year. Apricots are practically non-existent and peaches /nectarines have struggled with these same wet conditions. The front and back orchards have had flooded sections which has caused root rot problems. Some of the die back we have experienced in the blackcurrants and raspberries may also be partially attributed to these wet conditions. But weather in between showers is improving and we will see what happens as the ground warms up. New growth looks very good and if we can contrain twitch I am confident we will imporove things.

It is these learning experience which I think keeps my enthusiasm going. Only wish I had a second life once I had gained the necessary knowledge.