Story telling from Australia
Attempts to grow food in thin raised beds at the back of our Sydney house often feel futile. With its small concrete patio overshadowed on all sides, our tiny plot is hardly conducive to growing fruit or vegetables, yet I persist. I know I will never grow enough to feed us (unlike in our gloriously productive Broken Hill garden) and any effort I put in is entirely disproportionate to the meagre results. So why bother?
Because growing food matters.
It matters more than mining, way more, and I’m sorry about all those jobs and all those economic benefits, but you can’t eat coal.
And yes, since you ask, illustrious Prime Minister, I would be willing to consume less power and yes, I would be willing to accept blackouts and power outages if in return it meant one less filthy coalmine in a prime agricultural area.
Quite apart from the fact that coal mining is an ugly, out-dated, dirty business with no long-term future, mining won’t in any way enhance the environment, encourage tourism or put food on our tables. Am I naïve in thinking Australia should be leading the way in a world that is embracing renewal forms of energy? We have more hours of sunlight than just about any other country yet this government has given the go ahead for a state-owned Chinese company to embark on open cut coal mining in the heart of prime agricultural land.
This is lunacy. Are you listening Tony Abbott? No, of course you’re not.
So I will continue in my frustrated attempts to grow food in this tiny back garden, overseen by the owl and the squirrel. Did I tell you I have an owl and squirrel in the garden? They’re not real of course, they’re garden ornaments, the former inherited from Mum and the latter from Dad. Fitting really, since Dad could sometimes be an impetuous, frenzied gardener and Mum was more inclined to watch and wait.
This week was dominated by the squirrel.
Visitors have often remarked on the overgrown hibiscus in the front garden and I’ve occasionally responded to their irritation by snipping off a branch or cutting back a twig – a tentative approach to caring for an ornamental I wouldn’t have chosen to plant.
I often wonder if an avocado tree might not work better in that spot.
When I realised the weedy bush had outgrown the reach of my pruning shears I sawed off several branches, then I sawed off several more. The need for symmetry prompted an equally radical haircut on an opposing plant and it was only the sound of bees feeding on nectar filled flowers that stopped me hacking at the camellias (which in all fairness could do with a trim but not while the bees are feeding)
The rush of enthusiasm for pruning sent me up a ladder to cut back a dense trumpet vine climber that grows up a north-facing wall on the front drive. It’s an attractive plant when in flower but again I can’t help wishing the previous owners had planted a passion fruit vine or maybe espaliered a fig along that fence, combining beauty with productivity.
The front of the house is now radically more exposed, and in winter there’s no foliage on the deciduous tree either, but the benefit (thank goodness there was one, I was worried there for a while) is more light and space. I reckon there’s every chance an avocado tree would grow in the new sunny spot, or maybe I can plant another blueberry bush.
Perhaps I should plant a hazelnut tree? The bag of hazelnuts I bought nine months ago have waited patiently for me to buy a nutcracker, which only happened last weekend, yet the nuts are still edible and they taste perfectly fine.
My long-term goal in this garden is to combine beauty with productivity, and I have no doubt this week’s slash and burn approach will pay dividends in spring and summer when the vine flourishes and flowers return to the hibiscus.
The dividends of a slash and burn open cut mining operation seem far less obvious.