Thursday, 8 September 2016

This Month In The Bush

Regular readers of Riddell Roundup will be aware that "This Month In My Garden" and the Landcare column have become a regular feature on page 5. I'm totally thrilled to be there, for one thing because Melanie's column gives me the feeling of the physical place that Riddells, in each of its seasons; for another, because we share a common love of the ways things grow. And there are similarities in what our respective columns reveal.
Melanie's account of each month's events and tasks in her garden makes it plain that good gardening is mostly about maintenance. Unless you keep on top of it, the cunning forces of Nature will have totally taken over and you'll have twice as much work. So it's a matter of persistence, and timing.

The same goes for the bush. It's mostly about maintenance. My regular short walk takes me from the lower slopes of Barrm Birrm, to the break of slope and up, along a bit, then down. Not at all a strenuous walk, really just a "wake-up to the wider world" walk. As I walk, I check the "to-do's" on my list:

"Oh, I must get to that sweet pittosporum this year." "That plant looks totally suspicious, it's got to go." "Oh no, capeweed!" "Damn, I've really got to make a morning to work on the sallow wattle, and how did I miss that Ovens Wattle last year?" "Why do they do it? Here's a can tossed far in the bush by the young dudes at their parking spot." "What are these few gorse plants doing here!?"

Every now and then, I tear myself away from the desk, and the endlessness of maintaining a small cleared working space amidst the churn of paper, and the property (dealing with leaking roofs and more capeweed - more maintenance again) to put in a couple of hours across in Barrm Birrm. Load up the barrow with handsaw, mattock, secateurs and roundup, and head off.

And here's the second thing Melanie and I have in common: there are a lot worse ways to spend a couple of hours than outside in the world of plants. Yes, I’m doing maintenance, and yes, it's never ending. But I do this with a light heart, because around me is the bountifulness, the cunning, persistent fittedness of a thousand species working out their lives.

On my morning walk, I've been watching the Prickly Moses at the break-of-slope, progressing through the seasons.

The break of slope is the part where the flatter valley floor meets the steeper slope of hillside. Prickly Moses is an Acacia that loves this part, perhaps because it's damper there. Its wee buds appear in the middle of winter, then begin opening well before Spring, and are now in full display, a dusting of dancing yellow.

I love its spare structure, limbs heading in different directions, and the way it grows slowly. It has settle this niche slowly. Slowly. Lovely (in this manic world) to watch a species that works slowly.

For a gardener of any persuasion, this is the redemption in the labour of maintenance. You're in the midst of the more-than-human world, absorbing its rhythms, its imperatives, its small dramas and, from time to time, its glorious abundance. 

It gives back what you give, many times over. 

Ross Colliver, Riddells Landcare