Grahame, aka the Seaweed Man, is one of a group of people who, through the 70s, 80s and 90s, never let go of their organic/permie/regenerative dream for a better way of farming. That group includes Alex Podolinski (biodynamic), Bill Mollison (permaculture) and PA Yeomans, the father of Keyline farming.
If you've been following our blog for a while you would have read this one which is about our family's epic migration from SA to Far North Queensland, and our visit to the Wallace brothers' farms.
That week we spent at their farms in the Keiwa Valley changed all of our lives. It was there that Grahame was first introduced to Seaweed as a farming input, and there that he met PA Yeomans.
Grahame had already read Yeoman's book "Water for Every Farm" which had been written about 10 years earlier and by the early 70s was gaining quite a following.
Grahame and his brother Ashley had both sold up their city properties, quit their jobs and were determined to pursue their dreams of being organic farmers. After seeing the principles from "Water For Every Farm" put into action on the Wallace's farms Grahame and Ashley were more determined than ever to find properties that would suit the Keyline principles.
Geoff Wallace took them to meet PA Yeomans, who at the time was 92 years old. Grahame remembers...
"I met Yeomans and had read his book WATER FOR EVERY FARM.
He had two farms of worked out clay and shale north of Sydney named Yobarnie and Nevallan. In 3 years he had transformed them to good pasture. He was a Mining Engineer and worked things out his own way in farming.
The Keyline system worked using almost no fertilizer but building lots of dams with a big pipe through the wall with a gate to control the flow and shut off the water. In front of each dam he had a ‘V’ shaped drain that fell at 400 to one around the hills and he dropped a FLAG - a strong canvas sheet held with a pole across the top and a chain across the bottom to weigh down. Placed across the drain this created a dam that made the water run over the sides of the drain and run in sheets down across the pasture. This process was repeated right to the base of the hill where he had a large resevoir.
His book talked about Clay Soils. We bought a 12 ft model of the Yeomans Keyline plough, a Bunyip Shakerator, back in 1974 from his factory in Sydney.
I used it to open up hard red volcanic basalt soil and pull up rocks that seemed to grow from the soil. They obviously came to the surface because we made the surface soil softer releasing them.
The plough had a off centre shaker that helped it move forward more easily through the soil.
We used it to improve pasture.