Archive for the ‘hope’ Category

the little forest

In the middle of all of the digging and planting and failed planting, I have been forgetting to write about the tree project. Outside our back window we now have a small forest.

Remember the grey box? Eucalyptus microcarpa (leaves like tiny hearts). We now have more than 80 seedlings, most of them looking healthy (though we do frequent battle with the dread powdery mildew, which we fought first with milk and water and then with potion from Bunnings which seems to hold it at bay). When they are big they will look like this:

euc microcarpa

euc microcarpa

Then we have 25 Victorian blue gum (euc. globulus bicostata) – only half a box, who knows why, but almost all lush, which should one day look like these – though this lot are in the Blue Mountains 36 years ago, so probably a different sub-species (trees, not hikers):

Blue Mountains 1972 - pic from Dennis Rittsons Bushwalking Photos

Blue Mountains 1972

Some of the others have been less successful: 11 messmate; only two (*!?) manna gum; and of course not a single long-leaf box (euc goniocalyx) after the terrible events of February 24 of which we shall not speak. There doesn’t seem to be any particular logic to it (except of course the terrible events etc..).

On the other hand, we have a full box (48 tubes) full of tiny red stringybark, which now look like baby cress, but should one day look like this:

red stringybark

red stringybark

Which is to say, very big indeed.

Finally there are two boxes of peppermint gums (euc dives), planted last month. The first shoots are just coming through now.

Well that feels pretty good!


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A couple of mornings ago, I woke up feeling not light and breezy but oppressed and grumpy. I have too much to do I muttered to myself and to anyone else who might be listening. When it became clear that they weren’t, I took myself out to the back garden and and the task I’d been putting off for days. Transplanting the seedlings. There’s a whole section on it in our Tree Project manual, and we’d practiced it at our first meeting with D. It was like having a crash course in surgery. I’d been hoping to avoid it, but with too many seedlings in some pots and none in others, and some other growers with even fewer, there was no avoiding  it. I rang our project co-ordinator Andrew, who told me to be prepared for up to half of those we transplanted to die.

So here I was alone in the garden preparing to kill baby trees. I began by soaking the first tube (containing four or five green sprouts) and then laying out a wet newspaper to hold the evicted seedlings, and then mixing up some potting mix with water (all the while wearing my white latex gloves to avoid contamination). Then I upended the tube, squeezing each corner carefully, until the contents slid out and i was holding a pile of seedlings and potting mix and long white tendrils like nerves. I was very gentle and very slow. One by one I separated the seedlings, shaking the tendrils softly, and laid them out on the damp paper. Then because they looked so vulnerable  I put a little soil over their roots, as if I were pulling up a blanket, and they lay there tucked in like Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice. Somewhere in the middle of all this I noticed that I no longer felt oppressed or grumpy. One by one I lifted the seedlings and where necessary trimmed the roots and draped them into the tubes I had already half filled (still keeping a firm but gentle hold on the leaves) and backfilled as described in the manual. At some point Pete got back from the school run and joined me. Yesterday afternoon I did the same thing again, and today when i got in from work. And now we have a whole box full of happy looking little seedlings – not one of them drooping at all. I might have to file this in “hope”.

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This evening I took the dog for a walk down by the creek, wearing (me, not the dog) a woolen long-sleeved t-shirt, a woolen jumper and a woolen coat.  Wonderful. The ground was mushy, and the creek, after just one day of drizzle, was a broad black slick in which I could see gum trees and feral willows reflected. It was like the old days. On the way I reconnoitred for good spots to come and plant trees as soon as Autumn settles in and the ground softens up properly. I’ve also found a local indigenous nursery where I’m told I can get trays of eucalypt seedlings very cheap. Today I feel hopeful. I know the shit is hitting the proverbial. I know we’re in trouble. But the fires are back under control. And a little rain does a lot for the spirit.

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Today was not much of a day for planting trees. It was more of a day for keeping out of their way. So in the end I didn’t drive to J’s, father of Finn, to plant the fushcia gum I had promised in his backyard. Nor did i plant the new seeds I promised to put in two days ago. Instead I drove Finn to cricket training, where, amid the lashing of gum trees, I tried to talk his coach into sending them all home, where they would be safe. Instead I got hit hard in the ankle by a cricket ball. Then, as I hobbled away, the dog (“Boots”) discovered the only bit of water in the whole park, which was now a mud wallow, and proceeded to roll in it.

The only good bit (all things being relative) was that  a nice woman came to my aid and dashed home to bring me back a small carton of fruit juice and a cold compress from her freezer, which I rested on my throbbing ankle (thinking about thrombosis) as I sat for the next hour in the car hoping a branch wasn’t going to fall on me.

Pete rang on his mobile to say the power and home phone were out. In the end, though, the worst didn’t happen. The winds gusted up to 120 kilometres per hour, and fire fighters pulled out of some areas, but so far the containment lines seem to be holding.

Meanwhile, here’s a little something from One Hundred Months.


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This afternoon I received this text message on my mobile from the Victoria Police:  “Extreme weather in Vic expected Mon night and Tues. High wind and fire risk. Listen to Local ABC Radio for emergency updates. Do not reply to this message.”

The warning went out to almost five million Victorians. Almost 400 schools will be closed. Gale force winds are expected. People in country areas and the city fringe have been told to activate their fire plans  – and leave their homes now if they are going to leave. It is the first day of Autumn.

Today I planted in the icing-sugar soil of the backyard a tea tree, Leptospermum Petersoni. It is small and rangy and when it grows will bear small white flowers smelling of lemon.

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