A couple in the Huon Valley have joined efforts to save the iconic brumbies and are offering a tasty way to help in fundraising. Roger Hanson reports
AN organic farming couple in the Huon Valley is not only saving plants with a history but also helping wild horses.
Horticulturalist Rowena Howard and husband and plant propagator Grant Horne run Free Settlers Historical Plant Nursery at Cradoc. They are using their skills to raise funds to save Kosciuszko National Park brumbies from a threat of serious culling.
The nursery conserves and grows old-fashioned fruit trees and roses and now its heritage apple trees are becoming a beacon of hope for the at-risk brumbies.
Mrs Howard, a landscape architect with expertise in conservation and the environment, has a passion for heritage apples and saving animals.
“We like living simply, not using chemicals and conserving oldfashioned values.
“When I saw the radical plan to reduce the numbers of brumbies from thousands to hundreds in the mountains I thought we could do something on our farm,” Mrs Howard said.
“I was really taken by the story of these beautiful horses at risk of being sent to slaughter.”
Using their propagation skills the couple set up the Smooch a Heritage Apple Tree fundraiser.
“These are the same horses in the film The Man from Snowy River and used by Australians in World War I and you can understand why the soldiers fell in love with these horses,” Mrs Howard said.
She travelled to Belarabon Station outside of Cobar in NSW to visit station owner Joe Hughes who created 4BP (For Brumby Protection) Horses Australia.
Mr Hughes’s organisation helps rehome, train and integrate the wild horses into the everyday lives of
horse-loving Australians across the nation.
Mrs Howard’s campaign is also reaching nationwide.
“With the smooch-a-tree campaign, I post the trees throughout Australia. For every heritage fruit tree sold in tubestock $5 will go to 4BP Horses Australia to continue their sensational work educating people who step up to help the brumbies and learn Joe’s horse-handling technique,” Mrs Howard said.
“Smooch an apple tree is in keeping with Joe’s philosophy to get in close to the brumby and show the horse trust and kindness,” Mrs Howard said.
While at Cobar, Daisy the Kosciuszko brumby put her faith and trust in Mrs Howard and the threeyear-old brumby is now happy living on the Cradoc farm.
“Daisy is exactly as the poem A. B. Paterson described in Man from
Snowy River,” she said. “And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast; he was something like a racehorse undersized, with a touch of Timor pony – three parts thoroughbred at least, and such as are by mountain horseman prized.
“That is a perfection description of Daisy.”
The happy brumby has joined draught horse Pia, a 16.2-hand Clydesdale bred locally, 22-year-old rescued Percheron Shivak and Wilbur, a saved station brumby from Echua Doggers.
The horse battalion is complemented by a rescued Irish wolfhound and a kelpie.
Tasmania is enjoying a renaissance in demand for heritage apples and pears. The couple’s nursery has a collection of more than 200 apple varieties.
The heritage apples can taste of pineapple, strawberry, aniseed, orange or even wine and are as varied in appearance and ripening time as they are in flavour.
One of Ms Howard’s favourites is the large red King David apple that dates from 1893.
She is compiling details of the old varieties as the Forgotten Apples Encyclopedia.
Mr Horne has recently grown several hard-to-graft trees from specimens at the Port Arthur Historical Site that have been growing there since the early 1800s.
“We are working with other land managers of historical sites to provide a living treasure,” Mrs Howard said.
Now growing safely under their care is a clone from a dying holm oak, Quercus ilex, originally brought back from Gallipoli after World War I and planted beside St David’s Cathedral.
“It keeps the history of Gallipoli alive,” Mr Horne said. “In 2013 I took a cutting of the holm oak then grafted that onto a host to grow a clone.”
The couple will be at Mitre 10 in Huonville from 9am tomorrow selling the fundraising apple trees.
For more details visit www. freesettlersnursery.com.