Dust to oasis


Since my first visit to Gundaroo where I encountered the shingleback lizard and all that dust, I have returned on two more occasions, spending close to 6 weeks in total with my host, Joyce and her dog, Jess and her pigs and her chickens.

Humans adapt to most conditions.  After the initial days of wondering if I could make it through another day, Gundaroo has turned into a refuge and a school.  The dust remains but thankfully the temperature is dropping.  The early mornings are crisp and cool, reminding me, surprisingly, of northern Spain, when I walked the Camino.  The dawn light is the same and so is the smell of the earth before the temperature rises and Spain then disappears to the other side of the world.

My second visit in January was an escape from Sydney and from the family, post Christmas.  Joyce welcomed me back, as her farm needed ongoing help but because she also needed an interpreter.  A Japanese farmer wwoofer had arrived a few days earlier from Hokkaido.  Takako’s family operated a conventional broad acre farm and Takako was interested in learning about organic farming from Joyce, but her English was limited.  For close to two weeks, I interpreted all day long on topics such as seeds, irrigation, farming techniques, and cooking.  Each night I fell into bed exhausted after working in the heat and for a change, using my brain.  I had been upgraded into the house since the first visit and was no longer in the caravan which now was like an oven.

Takako had irrigation problems in her greenhouse and wanted to know how she could install either a spray or a drip system instead of watering by hand.  My technical vocabulary is limited in both languages so the three of us spent quite a lot of time in the local rural supplies store trying to make sense of what might solve her irrigation issues.

Being high summer, the vegetable garden was starting to take shape but the weeds were also in abundance.  We picked buckets of purslane which we fed to the chickens.  We ate some too in a delicious Turkish recipe with rice, tomatoes and garlic.  We planted rows of rocket, lettuces, coriander in its place  and we soil blocked hundreds of seeds of radicchio and other types of chicory.  Salanova seems to be the latest fashion in salad mix seeds producing beautifully formed lettuce heads, almost like mandalas.  Every farm I’ve been to seems to be growing them.

One morning we were in the chicken pen, trying to fix a broken feed box.  Takako and I were so engrossed in the problem that we failed to see Jess jump the fence.  All of a sudden there were a hundred chickens running for their lives and Jess tearing around the pen and inside the chicken coup trying to catch her breakfast.  Feathers were flying everywhere.  I tried to run after Jess but with the ground being so uneven, I was likely to end up with a twisted ankle.  Joyce heard us yelling and came to our rescue.    Thankfully no lives were lost.

During my third visit, less than a week ago, the weekly harvest for the restaurant delivery was so bountiful the cooler box on the truck could barely be closed.  Joyce had rung to tell me how productive the garden had become and she wanted me to see the transformation which she said I had helped her make.  I happened to have a few days spare in between wwoofing posts so I went to help.  The tomatoes were superb, just like how I remember them from my childhood.  There were also cucumbers, lettuce, corn, radishes, beans, capsicum, zucchini, eggplant, coriander, rocket, basil.

There were two wwoofers there as well who were helping to clean the house, washing walls and floors.  Sophie and Carole were the Swiss team, organised, hard-working, a lot of fun and on a 7 month adventure of Australia.

The farm was undergoing a transformation.




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