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The gift of good land

July 31, 2007


Ripening coffee berries

An acknowledgment to Wendell Berry for the title and where reading that book has led me….back to where I grew up and to an appreciation of what it has given and continues to give me and the rest of our family. The humble suburban quarter acre, in the temperate climate of Sydney, in the hands of people who didn’t need to read Mr Berry to know what he was talking about. Kudos to my parents!

The perennials were planted by my mother, the tomato is a volunteer, the orange tree was planted by a previous owner and the annuals were planted earlier in the season by me. There was a severe frost a few weeks ago, so the more tropical items got “totally hammered” ( To use the language of my sister, Ms B – gardener in residence) but they are hanging in there.

The blue sky is pure Sydney winter….so please enjoy the highlights of my mother’s back yard.


Pawpaw (papaya?) with frost damage


The only tomato that survived the frost. Just!




Broad beans with arugula and bunching onions.


My first ever successfully grown broccoli head.


There are more, where these came from.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2007 2:46 pm

    Those oranges look so lovely, especially with that blue sky. And coffee! (Huge sigh.) I seriously wonder what the heck I am going to do if I really do go for an all-local diet. Oranges, lemons? Coffee? Coffee is nonnegotiable, but wow would I miss the squeeze of a lemon in my winter pasta.

    I do know what you mean, though, Nada, about coming home. After 20+ years, I’m back, and it’s both strange and familiar at the very same time.

  2. August 1, 2007 11:04 pm


    I used to be SO embarrassed about that yard….you know other people were putting in pools and my parents kept their vegetable plot.

    But that little plot, can keep us all in lettuce and greens for most of the year and cukes and beans in the summer. Given how difficult it is to grow stuff in my yard, the health and abundance of the plants at my mum’s place really are something to be grateful for.

    Coffee – if you have to process it, let me tell you – it could become negotiable.

    Couldn’t you grow lemons in pots a la Tuscany and Provence and bring them in during the winter? What does Eliot Coleman say?

  3. August 2, 2007 4:34 pm

    Ah, well, at least you came by your love of gardens honestly! I have no idea where this monomania, er, desire to garden comes from, as I neither have gardeners nor farmers in my background. And yes, you are quite lucky, having folks that still believe in the power of the homegrown!

    Eliot Coleman lives in Maine (quite freezing there, frankly) so he won’t have much to say about hardy citrus. He does, however, grow figs, as do I, running them in and out of a not-freezing place in the wintertime.

    But Barbara Kingsolver turned me on to the concept of a hardy orange, grown (at least) to her somewhat temperate Tennessee. It’s got thorns, isn’t that interesting? I think if I do it, I will put one in my (so far unassembled) polytunnel. The tunnel backs into the tractor shed so it should be warm-ish, I would think.

  4. August 2, 2007 11:14 pm

    There is a hardy lemon called the “Meyer Lemon” – it’s a cross between lemon and orange and it can survive a cold winter here (ok not Michigan) outside, without cosseting.

    Thorns on citrus, I find a little scary – especially the thorns on a lime tree. I always remember the thorns a little too late.

    I say pioneer the citrus in the Midwest – you know you can do it!

  5. August 7, 2007 4:03 am

    Wow, your (mother’s) produce is amazing. I’m so jealous of established gardens, which have been having their soil improved for 20+ yrs. the longest I’ve had a garden is 2 years before i move house and into a garden with sand which I have to start adding compost to and practicing my patience.
    I was interested to see your broccoli. I’m not sure I would ever grow broccoli because I won’t eat it, but any leafy green veg eg. cabbages (which I will eat) gets devoured by snails. How do you keep them away, or are they extinct in sydney 🙂 i’ve always used snail pellets, which I know is evil, but I recently found out they can kill bob-tail lizards and so I want to stop using them. all I can think of is going around early in the morning squashing the snails, and i’m not sure this will work coz I’m very lazy in the morning.

  6. August 7, 2007 11:13 pm

    You can use coffee diluted in water to deter snails and slugs. My sister who is staying at my mother’s has been doing this and it works well. You spray it around the plant. There are still pests around but it reduces their number significantly.

    Copper is also a deterrent – the new type of snail pellets have that in it, so it’s not harmful to wildlife, pets etc. It costs about 40% more than the regular snail pellets. I’ve read that people have used copper bands and even stripped speaker wire to put around garden beds to stop snails.

    Broccoli straight from the garden would convert anyone – I’m convinced. It taste is nutty and sweet especially the stem. YUM!


  1. Snail Patrol « Ockham’s Razor

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