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Wydgee: God’s own country

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

When Countryman dropped in on Mt Magnet’s Bill Moses and Kate Hutchison in September last year, the pair described their 170,000ha Wydgee Station as ‘God’s own country — when it rained’.

Well, the heavens have finally opened and the couple has recorded 140mm in the rain gauge since December 14, 2010.

Almost 20 years ago, Bill traded shearing for pruning, establishing on Wydgee the region’s only stone fruit and citrus orchard.

So while the rain has meant a flush of feed, there’s not a lot of stock to eat it.

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Falling wool prices and then wild dogs forced Bill to reconsider sheep and these days, it’s plums, apricots, peaches, oranges and melons springing from Wydgee’s fertile soils.

Salt build-up in plant roots has been a persistent problem in the orchard, with rainfall needed to hit the built up banks to wash the salt away.

The couple hasn’t had good winter rain for about eight years, but said recent summer rain was just what the doctor ordered.

“We had a couple of really heavy falls, something like 50mm in two hours, and that will leach the salt out of the banks and really help the trees,” Bill said.

“The trees will be healthier for it and that flows right through to the fruit .”

And the rain was perfectly timed, with Bill and Kate increasing their rockmelon production this year to 40,000 seedlings.

When rockmelon growers in Carnarvon were wiped out just before Christmas, Bill and Kate were able to step in to fill the gap.

“We were lucky that we’d finished our melon harvest when we got the rain before Christmas and most of our fruit was already off,” Bill said.

“We went from a scenario where there was an oversupply of rockmelons to a shortage and prices jumped up.

“We’d done the increased melon planting and went from 4000 tubs to 7000 tubs sent to Perth, which proved to be reasonably successful.”

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