Happy home

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

Tasmanian Country - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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