I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Thirty Years of Friendship with a Plant

Sometimes a plant means more to us than simple beauty.

This lovely zygo cactus has been with me for probably eighteen years now, since my son asked me to look after it while he was tripping overseas. But I've followed its life for much longer.

I remember when it belonged to my favourite Aunt Edith, a wonderfully artistic woman who made hats and the most exquisite clothing. She trained as a milliner as a young girl when hats were absolute confections, made individually and with great skill.

My own mother and Edie were always great friends. Edie gave her the zygo about 1980 and soon after moved to Perth where she died in 1998 at the age of 90 years.

The plant remained close to Mum's heart and she even took it to the nursing home in the late 1980s where she tended it with loving care, even though very ill.

She had a small stand of pot plants outside her bedroom, and the zygo was there too. Most days the home gardener would bring her a small can of water and Mum would struggle, breathing heavily, to a chair placed nearby the plants.

In between many rests she would inspect her pots, remove any stray weed or dead flower, and douse them with water.

It was one huge effort.

Poor Mum died a sad death in 1988 and my son Geoff asked if he could have the zygo in her memory. He loves plants as much as she did.

I remember it was in a white ceramic pot then. Geoff took it to his digs where he worked for the Department of Agriculture at a research facility, so it thrived.

I think it was late in 1991 that Geoff asked me to look after our zygo while he tripped overseas, as many young Australians do as a sort of rite of passage. I've had it ever since.

The zygo is more than double in size than when I first saw it. Every year since it's been in my possession it has flowered right on Geoff's birthday - May 27. It was as though a dependable gift.

This year though there were no flowers on the zygo on May 27. I hoped that this little ritual would not be broken, but I needed to wait two full weeks before the first bud burst into a pink bloom.

I wonder if climate change had something to do with this late coming?

How is climate change affecting the environment around you?

Monday, 15 June 2009

What does 'sustainability' really mean?

I wrote this story for my daughter and son-in-law who have a garden centre, feel passionately about the environment, and have a policy of encouraging clients to think wisely when planning their gardens. They'll use it in marketing and I thought my bloggy mates would enjoy it too ...

Life seems to go through cycles, but whatever age we may be we all have similar desires for our gardens: we want them to be beautiful, productive and cost effective while taking up little of our precious spare time.

Planning and forethought, and a helping hand from an expert can set us on the way to life long happiness in the garden stakes (!).

So far as gardens are concerned we can divide those life cycles into the years of young families, working professionals and the baby boomers who’ve recently retired, and then people living alone or as couples in their later lives.

If you think about it, at every stage we wish to use our money wisely while getting the greatest bang for our buck – and gardens have to pay for themselves as much as everything else in our lives.

Sustainability is the buzz word right now. But what does it really mean?

Trees and shrubs must pull their weight in conserving energy, creating shade in the summer while letting through warmth in colder times. They can do that and be beautiful too.

There should be a plentiful number of fruit trees and other food bearing crops. A veggie garden is paramount for nutrition and money saving strategies.

We’re all learning to cook again, and all good chefs know that there’s nothing but nothing nicer than fresh salads and greens to provide a solid basis in the kitchen.

Sustainability is investing now to help the future take care of itself. That’s what governments do in tough times, and we should do the same.

And so we set up pervious paths that let the rain soak into the earth while not costing heaps, and get ourselves good compost bins to make the most of every veggie scrap.

Perhaps we don’t need huge swathes of lawn that tie us down to mowing chores at the week-end and take up precious ground that could be ever so much more productive in other ways.

Every one of our decisions will stand the sustainable test: will it do the right thing by energy and water supplies? Will there be long term waste involved? Are we doing our bit to connect with our community? Properly designed gardens can do that.

Will our family be happy in this garden? Are we contributing to the health of our family? Are we in the fight against obesity and fast food? Are we protecting our bodies by establishing high rise veggie garden beds?

Sustainability means making decisions that will bring benefits in the long term, as well as for the now.

When we look at sustainability in this way we can see it’s important to everyone at whatever age. We can work within our own little patch of earth to make a contribution.

Down times are an opportunity!

(Lynne and John celebrate high rise veggie gardens at their garden centre - see the top picture. It's made from corrugated iron - bottomless. John fills them with top quality soil, cow manure and compost, adds general purpose fertiliser and a few water crystals and plants young seedlings. In our Australian spring such seedlings grow as large as those in the picture in just two or three weeks. Great for the grocery bills, for bad backs and they also help with the weeds.)

What are you doing at your place to make family life 'sustainable'?

Monday, 8 June 2009

Boys and Their Toys

Just what ARE these men doing? It's obviously very serious business.
Look closely and we discover that they are actually tending model yachts.

These boys play with their toys each Monday afternoon on a lake close to my home. They are members of the Twin Towns Remote Control Yacht Club, one of a string of similar clubs throughout the world. There are even State, National and World titles in this game.

Recognise the bicycle in the distance?

These particular little craft are just one metre long and must strictly comply to laid down rules before they can compete in races. They must have fibreglass hulls and keels and aluminium masts.

Such yachts can cost $A4,000 to put in the water, although I'm told it's possible to buy secondhand craft if you look around.

This local club has both handicap and scratch races and members compete with other clubs. They don't race for fortunes - today the prize for this afternoon's overall winner was a small Mars Bar!

The club has several races in an afternoon and probably twenty craft can be on the water at once. There are bound to be glitches.

That's when this gentleman comes in handy - he does the rounding up of strays.

What toys do boys have where you live?