Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

The calming effect of nature

Since Australian Farming Families hit the bookshops last week I’ve been talking to newspapers, magazines, radio shows and even ABC Breakfast News (my favourite so far has to be the marvellously named Radio Skid Row in Marrickville – a community radio station that’s been broadcasting out of an old tin shed for the past 30 years).

radio skid rowI bowed to pressure and opened a twitter account, then set about nervously twitching, tweeting, re-tweeting and gabbling about people I variously describe as grounded and in touch with nature, connected to the land and to all living things; calm, resilient and resourceful. Those words certainly wouldn’t describe me right now.

The process of publicising this book has – inevitably, I suspect – left me all of a twitter, caught up in an electronic frenzy when part of the reason I wrote this book in the first place was to rejoice in the benefit of living on the land, to celebrate the importance of living sustainably, growing food and connecting with the natural world.

The answer, of course, was to reconnect with nature myself.


Autumn has arrived here at home in Sydney, and with it a magnificent show of flame coloured leaves draped along the skinny side of the house.


One final fig clings stubbornly to the tree, the last grapefruit is slowly ripening in weak sunshine and the lone strawberry plant that survived in a shallow depression on top of the wall has put out runners. SONY DSCI snipped the runners off, potted them on, watered them with a weak solution of seaweed and placed the pots in the sun; a simple unhurried act that brought a pleasurable calm to the frenzied activity of recent days.

Ever the optimist, I also planted peas, broad beans and rocket seeds in planter boxes covered in mesh to stop Maggie hiding her bones in the fresh soil. Will she ever notice, I wonder, that I have no desire to eat bones and have never once tried to dig up one of her foul smelling bones to steal it? I doubt it.


Inspired by A Fig at the Gate I even pondered the possibility of dislodging one of the camellias from the front garden to replace it with a fruit tree. The camellias came with the house, and one has been looking especially sickly of late; maybe once it’s flowered I might pull it out. I hate to rip out a perfectly good tree but I feel compelled to grow more food and that spot on the corner where the sickly camellia lives might suit an avocado.


Clive Blazey reckons it would. “Avocado trees should be in every backyard, just like a lemon. Avocados can grow in every capital city of Australia (except Canberra and Hobart),” says the founder and CEO of the Digger’s Club in his Australian Fruit and Vegetable Garden book.

I love his optimism, especially when a scant three paragraphs later he says, “Avocados are very prone to root rots. Even waterlogging resulting from a freak storm, that drains in just 48 hours, can kill your tree.” If that’s the case, I doubt if there’s an avocado left alive anywhere in Sydney right now.

The ‘handsomely illustrated’ Readers Digest Complete Book of the Garden is more circumspect about the prospect of growing an avocado in Sydney. “They can be grown only in the tropical or sub-tropical regions,” it states bluntly.

Blazey’s cheerful confidence is far more appealing; sometimes optimism is all we gardeners have. We shall see.

In the meantime all that pondering and pottering has calmed my beating heart and soothed my worried soul, reminding me that it’s often the simple things in life we need at times of intense activity.


I wait to see if bicarbonate of soda, brushed onto brick pavers on the shady side of the house and left for two days before rinsing, might combat the layers of mould and mildew that accumulate over winter.

This backyard bears no resemblance to any of the magnificent farms and properties I visited, yet there is a quiet pleasure to be had in it, especially when sitting in a sunny spot after an hour’s work with a cup of tea and a slice of ginger cake.

And with Mother’s Day in Australia this Sunday, here’s to mums everywhere. You’re not forgotten, Mum.

Happy gardening everyone.

12 comments on “The calming effect of nature

  1. Jeanette
    May 7, 2015

    I’ve just listened to the Life Matters interview: lovely to hear the stories Deb.


  2. Carricklass
    May 7, 2015

    Love, love, love your blog. So interesting, starting with the mayhem of being a celebrity author to the simple, exquisite pleasure of that cup of tea. Good luck with the book, may all your interviews etc. be pleasure. Keep blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh thank you so much, it’s lovely to know you enjoy reading my rambling thoughts, not sure I can lay claim to the celebrity status but I certainly make a decent cup of tea, hope we can share one when I’m over in the UK in October 🙂


  3. Bekki Hill
    May 7, 2015

    Good luck with the book! I agree gardening is very grounding.


  4. Have the most amazing avocado tree in our McLaren Vale garden in South Australia. They like protection and some north sun but otherwise thrive beautifully. Not sure about the wet feet though. There is a whole grove of them down the road that have been there for many years and grow commercially. So not all avocado trees need a sub tropical climate! They are a lovely tree to have in the garden. Looking forward to reading your book and congratulations on your success. Loved also A Fig in the Garden. Kate is a great “word-smith”! Good luck with your launch in Broken Hill. Am celebrating my 70th birthday in Sydney that weekend otherwise I would be there. Keep writing Deb….you have a great gift!
    (Cessna Caravan – VH-JXB)! Judith Booth


    • Oh how I’d love to visit one day Judith, I would so enjoy seeing your garden. Many congratulations on your approaching 70th – a birthday to celebrate, like all of them! Shame I won’t get to see you in Broken HIll but who knows, we might meet somewhere along the track one day. Best wishes to you and thank you for your kind comments on my writing.


  5. Eliza Waters
    May 8, 2015

    Nature cures all that chaos that humans call ‘life’ – I’d go mad without my daily dose!
    Glad to hear your book is getting good press. Exciting times! 🙂


  6. Congratulations on the book, and on your fortitude facing the publicity round!
    My daughter has an avocado in her Sydney garden. I’m sure it’s been waterlogged dozes of times. The biggest problem is getting to the fruit before the wildlife do.


    • Thanks Helen, and so there’s hope for me yet with an avocado! I think you just sounded the death knell for that sickly camellia 🙂


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This entry was posted on May 7, 2015 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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