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by Gail Kavanagh

Sydney, the capital of New South Wales in Australia, is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, overlooking a natural harbor that offers excitement both on and off the water. But the things for which Sydney is justifiably renowned, such as harbor cruises and fine dining, can hit the wallet hard. Fortunately, once you get to know it, Sydney can also offer you wonderful experiences at prices the locals are happy to pay.

Cruising Sydney Harbour for Pocket Change

Cruising magnificent Sydney Harbour with all the luxurious trimmings on a fancy yacht can cost hundreds of dollars, even for a solo passenger. But like Hong Kong, Sydney also offers a daily commute across the water that is cheap and cheerful and brings you right into the life of the city.

Your magic carpet is called a Sydney Ferry and you’ll find one at Circular Quay, with the Sydney Opera House and the famed Sydney Harbour Bridge close by. Just buy a ticket to Manly, right across the other side of the huge natural harbor, and get on board for a great ride. The ferry will take you right under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and you can look back at a spectacular view of the city. Keep your camera handy.

Your 30-minute Sydney Harbour Cruise will give you the same view of the harbor that the toffs enjoy, and bring you to one of Sydney’s great suburbs at Manly, where you can relax on the beach, and stroll down to the Corso, Manly’s shopping precinct, for some seriously good fish and chips.

For just a few bucks (around $7 AUD) for your ferry fare, you will have one of the most spectacular days out you can imagine.

How to Have a Cheap Iconic Meal in Sydney

Sydney is known for its beautiful cuisine, influenced by the many cultures that have come to Australia and shared their cooking traditions. No matter what style of cooking you love, Sydney has it on offer, including the best seafood anywhere. But in all honesty, it’s not cheap. However, there is one traditional food item that everyone can afford. You just have to like meat.

The good old Aussie meat pie is both a snack on the go and a sit-down meal. Where you choose to sit down is up to you – it could be overlooking the water at Darling Harbour, or deep in the green swards of the Royal Botanical Gardens. Relax and let the world go by as you squeeze the little packet of tomato sauce onto your pie, and don’t forget to throw the crumbs to the pigeons. You’ll be surrounded by the little bandits in no time.

Catch a Train to See the World’s Most Famous Beach

Bondi Beach is a true Sydney icon you won’t want to miss, and the easiest way to get there is by train. If you take a car, the cost of parking will take your breath away faster than the salty air and finding a parking spot can be a nightmare. So hop on the train, and as you stroll down from the station, let your first glimpse of the beach take your breath away instead. It almost looks as if it is standing on end, it is so deep and wide a vista. You will feel the exhilaration the locals enjoy of being able to walk to the best beach ever.

Get Away from the Hustle and Bustle

When the city and the beaches are hot and crowded, and you need a quiet break, head for the Chinese Garden of Friendship at Darling Harbour. Built in 1988 as a symbol of the ties of friendship between Sydney and its sister city Guangzhou in China, the garden has grown into a place of peace and harmony amid the city’s bustle and noise. Everywhere you stop presents a beautiful scene worthy of framing, and there is usually some free activity going on in the holidays. The cost to get in is also ridiculously cheap – $6 AUD for adults and $3 AUD for children. There’s no time limit on how long you can stay (except closing time) and you can visit the tea house for tea and snacks to refresh yourself.

Get Your Seafood from Paddy’s Market

Craving some of the seafood Sydney is famous for, but baulking at the restaurant prices? Head for the same place those fancy chefs get their ingredients – Paddy’s Market. Here you will find literally stacks of the freshest and most delicious fish and seafood that Sydney has to offer – without the restaurant mark up. Get there early, grab yourself an esky full of ocean goodness, some fresh veggies and salad, and head for the nearest outdoor BBQ spot. Cook yourself a feast fit for a king – or at least a celebrity chef. While you are at the market, stock up on your souvenirs. It’s all made overseas but so is the stuff in the expensive shops.

Once you know your way around, it’s easy to rock Sydney on a budget. Just make like a local and follow the home crowd to the best and cheapest fun in the city.

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Silvopasture: Grazing Livestock on Wooded Pasture

When you purchase rural land for a farm or homestead, there’s a good chance that at least part of that land will be wooded. The chances of finding affordable land with spacious, open pasture for grazing livestock are pretty slim. But, the good news is, livestock can indeed be grazed on wooded pasture. In fact, using wooded areas for grazing even offers some advantages that you may not have considered.

The term “silvopasture” is becoming more commonly recognized, and basically, it means that you are using wooded acreage with forage and trees as pasture for your livestock. The trees in the pasture provide much-needed shade and shelter for your animals, as well as forage. The trees can also be managed by thinning them out for use as firewood or even logs for building.

Dairy farmers in the northeast have grazed their cows on wooded pastures for generations. They used to call it “making milk from the woods.” Sadly, farmers were pushed to go big or get out of the business after World War II, and silvopasturing became almost obsolete. Many “experts,” especially foresters, began recommending against the practice, and cow nutritionists began urging farmers only to graze their cattle in open fields.

The Benefits of Establishing Silvopasture

Silvopasture has many benefits that are not provided by open pasture.

A More Comfortable, Cooler Environment for Animals

Animals love the shade on hot, summer days. Goats, cattle, pigs, and even bison are just a few types of livestock that can be raised on silvopasture. In fact, pigs must have shade because they cannot sweat, which means they can overheat very quickly. Putting a pig in a pasture without adequate shade would most likely cause death from heat stress.

But, other types of large livestock will enjoy grazing in the cooler environment, too. And, the trees provide shelter from strong winds and beating rains. You’ll still need to provide a sheltered place for them to go during extreme weather, but they will be much less exposed than livestock kept in an open pasture.

It Can Provide a Second Source of Income on the Same Area

Raising timber and grazing livestock on silvopasture go hand in hand. The timber will likely grow faster because it’s being fertilized by the animal manure. And, when you plant forage for your animals, you can plant nitrogen-fixing legumes that will benefit the trees even further. Raising timber and livestock in the same area is a great way to diversify your income.

Silvopasture is the Perfect Environment for Goats and Pigs

If you plan to raise goats or pigs on your farm, they will do very well on silvopasture because they are browsers by nature. The goats will go through and eat all the vines, shrubs, and undergrowth that competes with the trees for nutrients. And, pigs are right at home in the forest. They can help you renovate a wooded area and get it ready for planting forage by loosening up the soil with their rooting.

You Can Grow More Nutritious Forage for Your Animals

Cool season, shade tolerant plants can be planted under the trees in your silvopasture. These types of forages are usually more nutritious for animals than forages grown in full sun.

How to Establish a Silvopasture

When choosing an area for your silvopasture, location is essential. The area needs to have a gentle terrain. It doesn’t have to be completely flat, but steep hillsides should be avoided. You should also avoid boggy areas and wetlands. You want the area to have water available to sustain plant life, but it shouldn’t be muddy or soggy.

Once you’ve chosen the area you plan to use as your pasture, there are some things you’ll need to do to prepare it for animals to graze. Begin by getting rid of any low-quality saw logs, such as hemlock and pine. Carefully inspect the area for any poisonous plants that could be dangerous to your livestock and remove them. Then, cut out all the brush and undergrowth around the perimeter of the area and run your fencing.

Remember, no forage crop will grow under a full canopy of leaves. Large branches must be trimmed away to let sunlight in, and trees may need to be completely cut down to thin out very thick areas. In the coming years, as you continue thinning out the trees to use as firewood, you will open up the pasture for more grass and forage to grow.

Surprisingly, several forage options will grow in silvopastures. Orchard grass is an excellent choice because it’s right at home underneath the trees. Tall fescue could also do very well, but it has a lower forage value. Some other forage options could be annual brassicas, ryegrass, and clovers, depending on what grows well in your area and what types of livestock will be grazing on the land.

Advice for Managing Silvopastures

Here are some tips and advice for managing silvopasture on your small farm or homestead.

Be Careful Not to Overcrowd the Space

Avoiding overcrowding is especially crucial with silvopastures because if there are too many animals grazing in too small of an area, there will be damage to the bark and roots of your trees. If you plan to open the pasture up and thin out the trees, this probably isn’t a big deal. However, if you want to keep the trees healthy and growing, it’s best to keep the number of animals grazing in that area to a minimum.

Don’t Graze Silvopasture When it’s Muddy

If your wooded pasture is on a hillside, try not to graze it in the spring and fall when the ground is wet and muddy. Large animals like cows might damage the roots of your trees which could lead to erosion.

Establish a New Patch of Grass Each Year

Each year, thin out the trees in crowded areas to use as firewood. As you open up new areas, plant some grass seed in that spot. Eventually, you will have a gorgeous landscape of green grass shaded by healthy, beautiful trees.

Some Final Thoughts

If you’re interested in permaculture, silvopasture is an excellent choice for working with your land. By planting cool season perennials underneath the trees, you’re working in tandem with the natural growth cycles of the trees. Just be sure to monitor the area closely to make sure the animals aren’t being too destructive. Rotational grazing is always a good idea, whether your pasture is open or wooded.

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