Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Homes and other people's gardens

"Und here ve haff der mine field, and zen moat and zen ze ha-ha - ze pit vith razor sharp spikes..."

Ok perhaps I exaggurate just a trifle, but with dug in wombat proofing, wooden pallisade wallaby proofing, a metal slide rim for the possums and a final bird-net layer, there are less secure houses in Johannesburg. It was a fascinating trip around some very impressive gardens. In a nutshell (or at least Fort Knox) - you can grow almost anything on Flinders (there are soil issues, and bugs etc, but it is a temperate climate, which is not too extreme.) But there are a lot of volunteers eager to help you with redistributing the produce. It was fascinating however to see the different approaches - and levels of success in different people's gardens. I learned that soil can be over-enriched, which I hadn't known, and saw several neat ideas. The trip was also fascinating for the inveterate people-watcher like me, with a cross section of islanders who grow veggies - from the humble back garden patch to things that cost more than your average family car to set up. A frightening number of them said "Oh you're the new South Africans in John's place." I began to feel a little like the new giraffe at the zoo, only less interesting. We'd been told to bring a 'cut lunch'. I was good. I did not explain that we Africans liked to cut ours fresh, and could we have the attendees list to browse over. It was time away from the desk and writing, but worthwhile in terms of learning what would grow and what we'd have to do.

And what not to do. Heh. Local wisdom has it that you bury a dead critter (sheep, wallaby, feral pig) under each fruit tree. The vivacious owner of a large and struggling orchard/garden describing the process... "you know, legs and arms coming off and maggots spilling." Fancy some fruit from that tree?! At least we savages butcher our enemies on the spot before burying them under the corner posts of our buildings without having to drag disintegrating bits. Anyway Josh Byrne assured us this was a bad idea and anerobic fermentation would have a detrimental effect on the roots, to say nothing of the acidification of the soil from all the puking at the bouquet and charming sights.

This one however was a life lesson to me.

It was probably the best and most productive of the gardens... and a charming lady of 96 kept it... by herself.
She also teaches Scottish dancing.


  1. So what is a 'cut lunch'? sandwiches?

  2. This makes me grateful that my raised beds are simply regarded as something I supply to His Orange Excellence as a handy warm spot to sleep.

    So far the neighbourhood 'possum has not deigned to partake of the offerings.

  3. I remember my dad used to want to bury any of our dead animals under the grape vines..I can't remember if he actually did. The grapes were very good though..... We have deer, groundhogs, squirrels and rabbits to contend with. We really need 7 foot fence to keep the deer out and have it buried underground so the other critters don't come in! They are a nuisance for gardeners, but I do enjoy the wildlife.

  4. Francis - I think so. No one hauled out a chainsaw.

  5. What? the possum doesn't want to cuddle up to his orange excellence. Stuck-up. Deserves to be chased. ;-)

  6. Apparently burying them off to the sid - on the edge of the canopy cover, is a good thing. I love seeing the animals but they can be so destructive and worse, wasteful... monkeys typically take one bite out of fruit and try for a riper one - and can wreck a whole crop for taking 3 apples. Possums apparently do a good job of ringbarking - which kills the tree for a few mouthfuls of not very nice food...

  7. I won't put some of the other definitions O.o

    Noun: cut lunch
    Usage: Austral

    1. Ready-to-eat cold meal prepared in advance and packaged for taking to work/school, going on a trip, etc.
    - box lunch [N. Amer], packed lunch [Brit]

    Derived forms: cut lunches