It’s that time of year when it’s hard to sit down lest a galah chews off your garlic or the chooks raid the herbal tea garden that we are busy establishing…again! I’ve given up on the almonds and the rosellas know it: they can see the resignation in my eyes, although I have to admit it’s tinged with admiration at their thoroughness. The only problem with flapping your arms to shoo the birds is that the cows hear you, or smell you, or maybe a combination of both and start a great symphonic bellow that echoes up and down the valley. The grass is always greener…and they know it too.
The last week of gloriously warm weather has been a chance to get back out into the garden after a short sharp winter and the wettest July since 1996, or so the Warragul Gazette tells me. Surveying the garden beds in the older top garden, I believe it. This section of garden sits where the old milk truck turning circle once was, and even now, after a decade of gardening and deep ripping, it is prone to water-logging; once sodden, it is unworkable until summer. Over these last few wet winters I have toyed with the idea of moving it, but I can never quite bring myself to give up on it – the shelter here is established and it’s such a lovely spot to be with the Huonville crab apple, Fragar peach and a local apricot (grafted by a Warragul nurseryman) towering over, and in summer it grows the best, best tomatoes.
So, I spend a long hard rewarding day moving slowly and methodically along each bed, opening up the cold heavy dirt with a heavy digging fork made entirely from steel and iron, welded together exactly for this purpose by Martha’s grandfather. I’m creating clods, letting in light and air and warmth, but not turning it or working it at all, for I have learned that here, less is more. Tomorrow I will try something different, taking a punt that the worst of the heavy rains have passed, and sheet mulch with the straw from the turkey house interspersed with metres of trailing nasturtium vines and dock leaves and leave the miracle of composting and the worms to do their work.
It’s so good to be out here again, back warm in the sun, digging, alone in the shade of my big hat other than the thrush darting around cleaning up tiny snails. I remember how important, how vital this is for me, good hard work that sets the mind free.
I love this time, this process, just same enough and just different enough each year, of readying ourselves for summer. The peaches have been sprayed with copper to try and fend off the leaf curl, the apples have been pruned (the one I have been raiding to make toasted apple wood ice cream rather more so), new berries have been planted and a space has been mown in the very middle of the garden beds for a wooden bench, for sitting with a cuppa and soaking in all that lies right there and beyond. And that is something I am looking forward to!