Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

Strawberry surprise

We were in Broken Hill last weekend to launch Love in the Outback (I promise to upload pictures soon). It was a final, emotional goodbye to the town I called home and the friends I cherished for almost four years. If I felt sad, imagine how CC felt? He’d lived there for thirty-nine years.

CC’s been back a few times since we left last October, but he’s no gardener.

The vegetable patch was a disheartening sight. I’d clearly missed a few seed heads in clearing up the cheap mulch I’d spread (if anyone sees that man from Menindee give him a kick from me) and a flourishing crop of something – oats? barley? wheat? – was choking what remained of the strawberry patch. The broccoli must have gone to seed months ago and there was no sign of any eggplant.


A neglected vegetable patch looks wretched I think, far worse than any bare patch of scrub. It’s stark evidence of a failed attempt at productivity – food left to wither and die. I’d rather see nature take over completely than be forced to look at the sad remains of what might have been.


But down on my hands and knees I found a small charentais melon. Parting the weeds I discovered capsicum and then, the greatest surprise of all, strawberries; fat, ripe, luscious berries, sweetened by a cold snap and nestled under the weeds.


I looked again. There were grapefruit ripening, lemons clustered so thickly they bent the branches of the tree and the roses were still blooming. Yes, with winter fast approaching they need pruning, and so do the stone fruits and the grape vine should be cut hard back too…but it’s all still there.


Someone with energy and enthusiasm could uncover the thyme, the sage and rosemary; they could clip back the vines, prune the trees and enjoy the kind of bumper harvest we once enjoyed.

The simple discovery of a handful of sweet strawberries, on a day when temperatures in Broken Hill struggled to reach double digits, gave me hope. We ate them as we drove out of town.

Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll be back.

I hope so.

13 comments on “Strawberry surprise

  1. Val Lord
    May 8, 2014

    Beautiful Deb! Love the pics…I swear, when I am living back in Australia, I am going to need gardening lessons from you!


  2. nantubre
    May 8, 2014

    A bittersweet farewell.


  3. sharonmcintosh
    May 8, 2014

    What a lovely surprise in the neglected garden. Life continues one way or another as we move on.


  4. debhuntinbrokenhill
    May 9, 2014

    It certainly does, and it waits patiently for us to notice. Have a lovely weekend Sharon. Best wishes, Deb


  5. Val Lord
    May 9, 2014

    I think it is a bit more than nature…but I remember planting strawberries in the garden at Broken Hill but didn’t get any as Beau our dog, as it turned out loved strawberries and would get to them first! Can’t wait to have a herb and veggie garden though!


  6. candidkay
    May 9, 2014

    I love people who plant things that will live on for others to enjoy even when they’ve moved on to another time or place . ..


    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      May 11, 2014

      Isn’t it wonderful the way it works? I’ve inherited so many gorgeous trees and plants that other people have planted, my favourites were in a garden in England, an old fashioned variety of plum and a cooking apple, both trees were at least 30 foot high, then there are the camellias here, and the roses in Broken Hill, none of which I planted – I think I got lucky!


  7. sharonmcintosh
    May 9, 2014

    I just went to investigate The Book Depository and found they are out of stock of your book!?! I will get it through Amazon for my kindle anyway, so it is not a problem for me. But this is a bit of a good news/bad news post. Good news: I hope they had a TON of them, all sold, and can get more quickly Bad news: they are out of stock! Had to tell you that I checked from Ecuador and found this.

    Way to go, Deb. Your newest book is selling!!! Every author gets jitters about “will anyone really WANT to buy my product?” , right? Congrats all the way from Ecuador!

    I will start reading Love In The Outback tonight on my Kindle.


    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      May 11, 2014

      Bad news that they’re out of stock, but as you say, hopefully that means they sold them all! Hope you enjoy reading it on kindle and thanks for persevering in trying to get hold of a copy all the way from Ecuador! x


  8. Jane @ Shady Baker
    May 10, 2014

    Hello Deb. I am immediately regretting not meeting you while you were still in Broken Hill. My aunt Annie Bart put me in touch with your blog. Although I don’t know CC personally my brother and I went to school in Adelaide with his son…small world isn’t it, especially around Broken Hill.

    Your vegetable garden looks lovely, even in an overgrown state. I have enjoyed reading bits of your blog, always nice to see another local blogger and I love reading about other gardens.

    By the way, if you are in fact looking for someone to harvest your garden please let me know. It is a shame for those beautiful things to go to waste, particularly those precious lemons. Wishing you a happy weekend.


    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      May 11, 2014

      Hello Jane, lovely to hear from you and sorry we didn’t get to meet while I was in Broken Hill, especially given the connection to Heath! It sounds like the RFDS will put someone in the house so at least those lemons won’t go to waste! Best wishes to you and thanks for getting in touch 🙂


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This entry was posted on May 8, 2014 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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