Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

One man’s rubbish

We spent the weekend clearing out the shed, faces covered by masks to cope with decades of Broken Hill dust that had smothered toolboxes, jam jars, old trunks and empty cardboard boxes. Power to the shed was cut when an electrician called to find out why the house kept shorting out and the problem was traced to a line leading to the shed, buried deep (although perhaps not deep enough) under my vegetable patch. He cracked open the shed door, declared the old board unsafe and shut off the power. So we worked in the gloom, snatching light from gaps in the corrugated iron, wearing gloves and heavy shoes, brushing away layers of choking dust to see what might be hidden underneath.

An alarming amount of rubbish in the shed was precisely that, rubbish. And most of it was mine. I had dragged it back from occasional forays to the tip when we had chooks and needed fencing, trellis, wire and posts, none of which I’d been able to throw away when we lost the chooks and dismantled the fencing. The tip had also supplied pots, trays, wooden drawers, side tables, wrought iron panels for plants to climb, a broken clothes airer I thought I could mend, dog toys, a barbecue and a large window (I must have had a plan for that once).

We piled it all into the trailer and drove to the tip, checking the rear view mirror to make sure the contents stayed contained. I watched a black spider climb out of a box and cling to the cardboard as we drove at a sedate pace, past the cemetery, along the Barrier Highway and up Depot Road, heading for a patch of wasteland where black crows circled overhead.

Until I came to live in Broken Hill I never gave much thought to what happened to the rubbish we toss into bins and leave to be emptied each week and carted away. Out at the dump, rubbish is simply tipped onto the dirt and left there. Sometimes the picture is particularly grim. Tabby, the local vet, rescued a live baby goat from the tip after some heartless soul stuffed it into a chaff bag and dumped it in the meat hole, where dead animals are thrown. Thankfully there are kind hearts like Tabby who live in Broken Hill.

The tip may not be pretty but it serves a useful purpose, with a second hand shop that raises money for Lifeline. I resisted the impulse to check for more pots and we drove home, past Jacaranda trees on Morgan Street with clouds of lilac blossom and bougainvillea on Zebina shouting colour to a clear blue sky.

Our back garden has never looked as green as it did that day, grape vines scrambling up the bedroom wall in a race to the top, snow peas, radish and lettuce ready to be picked and tomatoes from last year’s plants slowly ripening.


I staked the peas and tied back the tomatoes then I couldn’t help wondering if I should have kept some of that trellis. I might have to make a return journey to the tip.

9 comments on “One man’s rubbish

  1. nantubre
    October 31, 2013

    As usual, I enjoyed your post but I do have a couple of questions.
    1. what’s a chook?
    2. Is a ‘tip’ what we call a dump or landfill in the United States?

    I SO wish I could visit Brokenhill!


  2. debhuntinbrokenhill
    November 1, 2013

    Aha, a chook is Australian for a laying hen and you’re right, a tip is what in America you would call a dump or landfill. Hope you make it to Broken Hill one day – add it to your bucket list!


  3. Adele Hughes
    November 1, 2013

    I so love the pictures you paint with words – I can just picture the shed & the tip! cheers


  4. debhuntinbrokenhill
    November 1, 2013

    Thanks Adele, I’m slowly working my way through hours of tape, your interviews are slated for transcription next week (and I suspect the week after…!) Hope all is well with you


    • Adele Hughes
      November 2, 2013

      Yep it will probably take 2 weeks – just ’cause I talked so much!! Mind you PLH did tell a few stories too I seem to recall. Have a tiny bit of a green tinge happening after a storm last week. So all good.


  5. rthepotter
    November 1, 2013

    Obviously sheds are like this the world over. (Substitute damp and cobwebs for the dust.)


  6. Wendy Moore
    November 3, 2013

    Aaaaah….the Broken Hill tip. Nice to know you’ve restocked it Deb. Will check it out on my return. Tips here seem to sometimes be oh so conveniently on the side of the road. Kopila says Namaste. Would you believe I bought a kurtha today? Less spending money for the tip.


  7. Smelly Helly
    November 6, 2013

    Please can you come and help me clear out my wardrobe? Xx


    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      November 6, 2013

      It might be a bit radical, not sure you’re ready for my brand of slash and burn clearance! x


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This entry was posted on October 31, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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