This year, Australia, like so many other countries, has been battling against unusual weather patterns, in between coping with a pandemic. We have had an unprecedented amount of rain this year in our region. I read today that there might be a locust plague in the Eastern States of Australia due to our excessive rainfall.
Despite all this, as the Desiderata poem quotes,
“with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world”
This wonderful poem was found in old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore dated 1692
To end the year, I’ve chosen some photos taken through the year, and the seasons.
Photos that show some of the more pleasurable moments in an otherwise difficult year.
Winter was particularly dreary this year, but we did have one highlight. Every afternoon, at almost exactly 4.00 pm this pair of King parrots came down to the bird bath. The female would drink, while the male perched on a branch of a nearby tree, then she would perch on the same branch while the male came down to drink. Then they flew off together.
Each following their instincts for survival, but touching none the less.
In spring the King Parrot pair, brought their young one to the wires above the garden almost every day to feed. What a delight!
During the winter we occasionally looked after our daughter’s dog Charlie.
Charlie doesn’t believe in sleep-ins, and I guess he is right, the winter mornings are lovely, especially with so much greenery and soft pinks and blues around mountains at dawn.
The pansies below have been in the garden for nearly two years! I don’t think we have ever had such a robust bed of pansies. Whatever anti-ageing tablets they are taking, I ‘d line up for them too!
They seem to be smiling all through winter.
I have often mentioned Ken’s garden in my posts. Ken is a neighbour, whose passion is his garden. He works tirelessly all through the winter to tend, not only his own garden, but to the verge around his property. This is a great public space for children to enjoy and for adults to chat.
Our own garden has never been so green, and shady…
Many thanks for reading my blog post today, I appreciate readers and comments, and enjoy following fellow bloggers, it is a wonderful window into other worlds.
Spring has come and gone, and I had hoped to write a post on spring flowers in the garden…but it can wait. Perhaps as a result of our long Lockdowns this year, the last few months have been very busy as we return, cautiously, to normal life, new Covid variants notwithstanding.
Recently I read a very interesting article in The New Yorker about a Renaissance painting called Madonna della Vittoria, the work of Andrea Mategna, painted in 1496, now hanging in the Louvre.
A British born historian, Heather Dalton, lived in Melbourne while doing a doctorate at University of Melbourne, and noticed a familar looking bird in a book of Renaissance paintings. The painting shows a slender white bird with a black beak and an alert expression, and an impressive-greenish yellow crest. Heather spent many years making sure she was right in thinking it was a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.
At the time Andrea Mantegna painted the Madonna della Vittoria, the bird could have been taken from eastern Indonesia, partly by water and partly overland via the Silk Road. This journey would have taken years, but a well-cared for cockatoo regularly lives to be 60 years old and beyond.
After many years of research, Heather Dalton is sure that bird in the painting is alive and not copied from pages of a book. She writes “The cockatoo’s natural pose in the painting with its crest erect, suggests it was painted from life. Dalton argues the bird’s appearance suggests it is drawn from life. Taxidermy species show birds in profile, this bird faces forward, just as a curious intelligent bird would do.
Francesco 11 Gonzaga, owner of the cockatoo would have collected exotic birds for interest and fashion, and as a signal of of worldly power and wealth.
Somehow I am not surprised that the resilient Sulphur Crested Cockatoo had survived a long journey and was living in a totally different environment, thus playing their part in history, so very long ago.
Having lived alongside Cockatoos in Canberra for many years, I can appreciate their beauty and unique personalities, and despite their destructive qualities, I am glad they are now a protected species. The best place to view a bird is in its own natural environment.
This is a photo from The Canberra Times, which I have used before, and it shows how destructive intelligent birds can be when winter comes and there is nothing to do!
As the local writer Jackie French says
”There is no 100 per cent effective way of keeping Cockatoos out of your orchard or garden. Cockatoos are too intelligent to be deterred easily. Beware the bird that plots and plays.
Cockatoos seem to be unique birds in that they enjoy eating and playing, sometimes at the same time!
Many thanks for taking the time to read my post today, I hope you are able to enjoy your green spaces, and birds, where ever you are in the world today.
Although Scotland is a long way from Australia, and a very long way from our unique animals, yet, we now have a lovely tartan material named Koala.
Fred and his sister Marie Lawson come from Spring Ridge near in Gunnedah in the New England region. They live on a property with Clydesdale horses, Scottish Highland cattle, and Irish donkeys, which Marie is breeding to re-establish the blood line in Australia. They are also keen weavers and interested in conservation of all kinds. Living close to the bush they came up with the idea of making a tartan to draw attention to the plight of koalas in Australia.
When asked, why a tartan for koalas, Fred said “Tartan is a language without words, it crosses all boundaries.” (this would bring a stirring to my Scottish father’s heart)
Koalas are completely dependent on Eucalyptus trees both for food and for a place to live. In recent times, the koala’s habitat has been severely reduced with increased urbanization. In addition the 2020 bush fires were devastating for koalas, and for their habitat.
Fred and Marie took several pattern trials before deciding on one, and that has now been approved by the World Tartan Register in Scotland. The colours include green for the Eucalyptus trees, dark and light grey for the koala’s coat colour, and black for the nose, with some pink and white for some parts of the koala’s face and coat.
Fred and Marie have officially registered and woven the tartan, and it is called simply The Koala.
Fred and Marie have always been interested in cloth and once they had done a weaving course in Gunnedah, they began weaving on a regular basis. They have a huge shed on the farm called ”Crofter’s Mill”. At the moment, Fred is experimenting with organic grown cotton which he sources from the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) in Melbourne.
Meanwhile, far away from the Crofter’s Mill in Gunnedah, during the next two weeks, all eyes are on Scotland, and Glasgow, as national leaders will gather for the latest round of talks on preventing global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels.
I read this small news story about the Koala tartan, in the same week that the Australian government was quarrelling and bargaining (within itself) about our commitment to climate change at the Glasgow summit.
I couldn’t help thinking there is something poignant, and hopeful about individuals who are making a difference, and remain steadfast in their belief in change…despite dissention in government ranks here in Australia. May some practical and positive decisions be made at the summit.
Meanwhile I hope the Koala tartan finds many admirers, and one day I may be able to visit my Scottish cousins wearing a Koala kilt. Now there’s a plan!
Best wishes for a happy November….no more Lockdowns in Australia and the sun is shining!
PS: If the koala photos seems familar, I used these same photos for an earlier post on Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. During Lockdown I was unable to go to Tidbinbilla, but I’m sure the koalas are thriving in their protected environment after the trauma of the fires.
My brother, Neil lives in Sydney and every morning, regardless of the weather, he walks with a small group of like-minded guys who are up early…usually a bit before dawn.
Sydney and Canberra are in Lockdown, and residents are allowed two hours of exercise (close to home) every day in both cities. Bondi beach, and the cliffs beyond make for ever changing views of the city and the beach, especially at dawn. How very lucky they are to have these views, at any time, but especially during a Lockdown period.
One of the walkers, Tim Read, regularly takes photos with various cameras, and has kindly allowed me to show these two. Many thanks Tim.
Although Sydney is only a four hour drive away from Canberra, our climates are very different . I often envy my brother his walks as I sit shivering in my study in Canberra in winter and spring. However, our compensation is spring!
This year we had a long cold and rainy winter, and it was lovely to see the blossoms finally arrive on the plum tree..
and the almond tree..
The Wattle trees Paul planted a few years ago are enthusiastically flowering in the new garden.
We have become philosophical about the amount of blossoms lost to the birds…
In fact the King Parrot feeds on blossoms just above us, as we sit on the deck having coffee, blossoms raining down like confetti.
Canberra’s suburbs are surrounded by paths and bushland, and during these Lockdown periods many Canberrans have joined the Facebook Wildlife photography group, and are publishing a wide range of colourful parrots and birds.
We live in one of the outer suburbs of Canberra, and McQuoids Hill, a nature park nearby, has become a very popular walking destination since Lockdown.
This landscape is very similar to the landscape of my childhood and that of my brothers, in Central Africa.
We have only seen kangaroos on walks in this area, but people regularly take photos of Wallaroos (a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo) so I’ll try to get a photos of them.
During winter we read an inspiring local story about Dimity May who has started a small business growing local organic seedlings tailored to our Canberra market. She called it Reid Tiny Farm. (Dimity was born and raised in Reid, a suburb of Canberra.)
Dimity had always been passionate about organic products, and has a Permaculture Design Certificate at Allsun Farm at Gundaroo. Later she completed a market gardener masterclass developed by a renowned farmer and regenerative agricultural advocate Jean Martin, based in Quebec. (an online course mainly for professional growers)
She’s had a challenging start to her business, with baking hot days last year, followed by torrential rain this year. However she has moved her business to Pialligo’s Garden Lots, and now has a seedling-raising cocoon tunnel purchased from Active Vista in Tasmania. Dimity’s father built the frames for the seedlings. The whole family is involved in her business, and hopefully they can continue to help her during this Lockdown.
At the start of 2020 Dimity began growing seedlings organically and has gradually developed her business. Now a subscriber can get a small or large box of seasonal seedlings four times a year.
We had subscribed to Dimity’s project during winter, and when she emailed to say our spring seedlings were ready, we were thrilled… it was just in time to start planting new seedlings and, chance to get out of the house!
Unfortunately it was teeming down with rain the morning we went to get our seedings, so I haven’t yet taken any photos of Dimity and her surroundings, or the polytunnel.
However, here is our bounty! We chose to buy a small box of seedlings (4 boxes a year, one for every season) and this spring the seedlings we have are; beetroot, radish, broccoli, cos lettuce, red butterhead lettuce, English spinach, cabbage and pak choi. (some we have given to neighbours.)
Our seedlings look very healthy and happy, and in between the seedlings we have some small plastic white butterflies to chase away real white cabbage moth/butterflies.
Dimity has, on her website, a quote by Martin Fortier (a farmer educator and award winning author) and this quote seems just right for Dimity’s business.
What we need is food grown with care by and for people who care.
Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope everyone can enjoy a bit of sunshine and small pleasures during these uncertain times.
We are back in Lockdown here in Canberra, as are many states of Australia. The Delta variant is a tough one, and Paul and I thank our lucky stars we are vaccinated.
The good news is, spring is on its way, and with it, come the birds. I took this photo of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo from my study while I was typing. He/she has decided to walk along the road rather than fly. It could be that the roads are so quiet now, but as regular readers of this blog know, Cockatoos are a law unto themselves, and he is on a mission.
There is something endearing and reassuring about birds arriving in the garden during spring….. life goes on in the usual way, regardless of Lockdowns.
This Juvenile Kookaburra is a very welcome visitor, especially as a family of Kookaburras come to our garden every year in August, they are not regulars. I would like to think it is to show off the new baby, but in reality it is probably because we have plenty of birdbaths and veggie beds with worms in them.
Just before Lockdown began, we started moving all our books from a shelf near the kitchen. I pulled out a very old copy of my mother’s book, called Ouma’s Cookery Book. The first edition was published in 1940, in Pretoria, South Africa. My mother bought the seventh edition of this book in 1958. My sister-in-law has a recent edition. A publisher’s dream!
The book was compiled originally from recipes donated by women in South Africa between the first and second world wars. The first editions featured war-time recipes and gradually more recipes were added with each new edition. It is much more than just a recipe book, it has practical information on how to make do and feed a household, when times were tough. It is also full of quotes and comments and interesting social history, more relevant today with our current pandemic.
My mother, who’s own mother died when she was young, no doubt learnt all she needed to know from this book, especially when she and my father lived on a farm in a remote part of central Africa.
Sadly it has been many years since I have used a recipe from this book, and it is only now that we are in Lockdown that I have time to go through it, and enjoy all the quotes, and perhaps try a recipe or two. (If I’m successful I’ll let you know)
I have also been reading an article in the British Edition of Country Living called To the Manor Reborn. It is the story of Raymond Blanc, a Michelin star chef and restaurant owner in London, who is recovering from Covid. He has had to work very hard to recover, and says during his recovery he thought of food and gardens, and remembered his childhood near Besancon in eastern France, where the family lived off homegrown vegetables and the odd rabbit.
The experience of Covid has changed his ideas of food.
‘‘I think the environment is going to define very much what we eat from now on, post-pandemic we’ll be all looking for local produce, there will be a re-discovery of lost skill. My mother created the full foundation of my food philosophy. She taught me about the soil, the environment, about joy, about sharing, about teaching.”
Since being interviewed, Raymond’s elderly mother died, and he has written a book called Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home. The book is dedicated to his mother.
It will be interesting to see how this pandemic changes us. I think there is already a rising interest in locally grown food, and we plan to increase our own garden beds with more of our produce in mind.
No matter how you get your food, the pandemic has shown me that sharing that food with friends and families is surely one of the most enjoyable experience in life. The recipe I distinctly remember as a child from Ouma’s cookery book was Koeksisters, a kind of doughy plait, exploding with syrup. Not the most healthy dish in the world, but a lovely plate to share with friends and family. South Africans are famous for their coffee, and I’m sure these Koeksisters are meant to accompany coffee or a Rooibos tea.
Thank you for reading my blog today, and best wishes to everyone. May your garden, and your food and family and friends, sustain you during these Covid days.
International Tree Day is coming up on Sunday 1st August. Time to celebrate all our beautiful trees in Australia. and the wonderful array of birds that rely on these trees.
The states surrounding Canberra (ACT), are either in Lockdown or just coming out of Lockdown, and everything is very wintery and quiet..
Despite a few blue skies you may see in some of today’s photos, don’t believe it…. Canberra is having a cold, rainy, windy winter.
The brightest colour in the garden this week was the cockatoo’s yellow crest.
Fortunately birds are still visiting the garden and we are also going for bush walks around Canberra, when the rain stopped. While we were walking along Coolamen Ridge, on a rare sunny day, we noticed the juvenile Kookaburra below calling for his family..
Why are we seeing juvenile birds in the middle of winter? Perhaps, as a result of the rain, there is an abundance of food… Paul suggested a bird baby boom. Well that would be something positive in these Covid times.
These magnificent Eucalyptus trees are providing a haven for the birds to feed on and nest in hollows. Imagine how safe and warm they would be on windy rainy days.
The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place for wildlife because there are so many Eucalyptus trees.
Australia has a wide variety of bird and animal life, and while we are on the topic of trees, there is a unique marsupial very much connected to trees, called the Tree Kangaroo.
While visiting my cousin in the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland in 2017 we stopped off at the Nerada Tea farm. This is the largest supplier of Australian grown tea, and not only do they have a lovely shop with lots of interesting teas and specially selected imported teas,
they also have a tea room with very inviting scones and cream.
After visiting the shop, we noticed a furry animal in one of the trees….a tree kangaroo! Very difficult to take photos of these shy animals, as it is very hard to see them. They look a bit like furry teddy bears with long tails. This was the first time for all three of us to see one in the wild.
Tree Kangaroos are kangaroos that live in trees. They have small ears and shorter legs and arms, their feet have curved claws for gripping and climbing. They are marsupials and are the largest tree-dwelling mammals in Australia. The Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos is the smallest of the species, and are found in the rainforest patches on the Atherton Tablelands.
Tree kangaroos feed on leaves and foliage and fruit and flowers of native trees in the rainforest.
Fortunately I was able to get a photo of a Tree Kangaroo from our own National Zoo. I must say this tree kangaroo is looking very well groomed and smart.
On this wild and wet day we stopped off at small cafes and shops selling delicious foods, specialist food products and coffee. A very satisfying day indeed.
Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today. With so many people in Lockdown or quarantine, or just being careful during these Covid times, I noticed a Zulu saying (undoubtedly meant for hunting) but true for us today ..
Well here we are in the middle of winter in Canberra, and I have left my camera in Melbourne.
Canberra, with its beautiful clear autumn and winter light, lends itself to photography. My Iphone is fine for family photos, but my camera is better for landscapes.
However, I do have many, many folders of photos that have not been used. I wonder how many bloggers are the same? I am better at de-cluttering the house than getting rid of photos. You just never know when you will need them.
So here are a few photos from these folders of my favourite places to walk, take photos, and have coffee in Canberra. Some photos have been used in previous posts, but many have been hiding in all those folders.
Ann Moyal, a writer, and an academic, had to say….
“I have been in love with Canberra for over sixty years. Its parched landscape, its ring of deep blue mountains etched against an iridescent sky. Its light and calming beauty…“
Canberra’s suburbs are full of birds all year round, but in autumn and winter we start to notice some our most colourful visitors…the King Parrots.
The male Australian King Parrot is the only Australian parrot with a completely red head. The female King parrot has a green head and neck.
The Rainbow Lorikeet is a beautiful splash of colour against the Eucalyptus tree in autumn.
Early morning walkers and bike riders are dedicated…they are relaxing around the lake in every season ..even winter.
This is my favourite building, one of the best places for coffee, and so warm and comfortable too!
I always enjoy the native gardens in Art Gallery gardens, and the sculptures change with every season.
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is not far from the city centre, and is full of wildlife..
I have many photos of kangaroos as a result of our visits during spring. However, for some reason this photo never makes the cut.
When we first came to Canberra we went to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve at Easter time with our two young children (after our Easter hunt back home). We found a picnic table and sat down to have our picnic and Easter eggs. Some Emus appeared out of nowhere and two of them snipped up the Easter eggs, and off they went into the bushes! Our daughters have had a very cautious approach to Emus every since.
One of my absolute favourite places for a walk in autumn and winter is around the suburb of Yarralumla.
This is the house where the Governor General resides, and has a wonderful view across the lake. There lines in the water are for rowing boats.
In summer time I sometimes meet friends at a coffee shop near here, and the mature shady gardens are a wonderful place to sit on a warm day.
During one of my visits, a very organised lady arrived with her greyhound and small dog. I asked if she would like me to keep an eye on them while she ordered her coffee. She thanked me, but said the little dog was the boss, and even with her restricted collar, she would not let the greyhound move away.
I could believe it!
Just as I write this today, Australia has experienced a spike in COVID cases in Sydney, and short Lockdowns have begun. This is a timely reminder to get vaccinated. Paul and I have had our first vaccine with no side effects and will have the second dose in August.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your garden, your home and family be happy and safe, where ever you are in the world.
The poet Mary Oliver liked to go out walking early in the morning. Although her landscape in the USA is undoubtedly different to mine, her poem has universal appeal to all who go out early in the morning.
”Softest of mornings hello. And what will you do today, I wonder with my heart…”
The National Arboretum of Canberra is a wonderful place to see the sun rise on a soft autumn morning.
Autumn is a very busy time for us, and we are trying get as much planting and tidying done in our garden, before we go and visit other gardens.
So here are just a few photos of our autumn garden…. and of course, the birds that come to visit…
The tiny Eastern Spinebill is a regular visitor, feeding on the Pineapple Sage, which has almost taken over this part of the garden.
It is a most elusive little bird, but Paul just managed to get a photo of him with his phone.
Thank you for visiting Canberra’s Green Spaces today, and I hope your autumn or spring days are bright and sunny, where ever you are in the world.
Recently a family living in the Adelaide Hills had an unexpected visitor to their Christmas tree. There are many trees in the area where they live, and seeing koalas in the trees is not uncommon. However, a curious koala had made it’s way into Amanda McCormick’s house
and climbed up the Christmas tree! The story went viral when her daughter posted these photos on FB. The koala was gently removed, (the Wildlife Rescue Team thinking this was a hoax at first) and the koala was taken back to her natural habitat. Fortunately she had not managed to eat decorations or green plastic leaves!
Amanda McCormick said, ”After a bad year, it was nice to have that”
2020 has been a year like no other. A year of changing our routines and habits, feeling a degree of fear and anxiety as the pandemic spread, and spending more time at home than ever before.
Looking back over my photos of the year, I feel as if we have lived three years in one year! Was it really only in January that we did a trip to Melbourne Botanic gardens? Wasn’t that a life time ago?
Lockdown began in Canberra in March and we realised it was time to cancel our long planned trip to the UK in May. The light slowly dawned on us all that travel to another country was definitely not going to happen any time in the near future, and travel to other states within Australia became increasingly difficult too.
By August and September, when the state of Victoria had the worst number of Covid cases in Australia and therefore the hardest lockdown, travel to another suburb within Melbourne was banned for three months. During this time, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, our daughter, living in Melbourne, gave birth to a baby boy.
Despite all the hurdles of tight hospital rules and general anxiety in the community, this bonny baby was born in September and he smiles all the time….the best of 2020.
During this Lockdown year, most Australians have been able to go for walks, around suburbs and within slightly wider boundaries.
As good luck would have it , the La Nina had begun, bringing plenty of rain to Australia.
Now there is less chance of drought and bushfires in summer…not to mention beautiful healthy green growth, food for all the birds and animals around Canberra.
If the Chicagoan architects and planners of this city, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony could see Canberra now (well, most parts of it anyway) …..so much greenery, bushland and space, at a time when it is most needed. Many thanks to them.
I have read that during this pandemic, dog ownership has become remarkably popular, in Australia and elsewhere. This is not surprising considering how many people have been working from home…dogs provide both companionship and a reason to exercise!
Our daughter bought a puppy, named Charlie, during this year, and he has been a great Covid year companion, and we look forward to his visits. He is very very cute!
Last summer I wrote about a gardener in our suburb, named Ken, who had begun to grow plants on the verge outside his home and garden.
This year, he has, with the permission of the local council, extended the area and he has planted, trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables. (the vegetables are for any passer-by to pick)
These pathways are well used by the local community, and every time we walked past there are a whole range of new plants to admire.
Ken and his wife are very proud of their gardens and always have time for a chat. The big sandstone rocks provide seating and shade, and companionship to passers-by. Best of all, the birds love the extra trees and plant food.
I think this casual interaction between neighbours gives us a sense of community, and belonging, I’m not sure anyone had the time for chatting before 2020!
Yesterday, as we walked through these gardens and down the hill to get the morning paper, we came across some busy cockatoos.
The ABC Science show recently had an interesting talk on Sulphur Crested Cockatoos..
They often fly in flocks as big as 50 -100, (the noise they make is deafening) but spend their time sleeping and eating in small five square kilometre areas, with tight networks, going from 5-20 birds who seem to be best mates….as seen here.
They could be collecting the bark to look for bugs to eat, and/or perhaps sharpening their beaks at the same time. (I’m open to suggestions). They are such intelligent birds they could be just keeping busy.
I always love to catch a glimpse of birdlife in Canberra, and to look over at the Brindabella Mountains….may they keep that blue/green hue all summer long.
Many thanks for visiting my blog this year. During a year of so much solitude, I have enjoyed reading blogs and keeping in touch with every day living in other parts of the world.
May you have a peaceful, happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.
Desiderata was my mother’s favourite verse, and it is very apt for today, despite it being written in 1692!
”…with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
At the end of two weeks of self-isolation in our home in Canberra, our neighbours sent us this lovely, and much appreciated card.
We recently visited our daughter and family in Melbourne, Victoria, during a time when Melbourne’s Covid numbers were on the rise. In order to do this we agreed to self-isolate in our own home for two weeks once we came back to Canberra. We had regular police visits during this time to check that we were doing just that. We also had a Covid test at the end of the fortnight.
All went well, but I’m glad we could open the gate at the end of a fortnight
Spring growth in the garden was just beginning when we left for Melbourne.
By the time we got home, thanks to the frequent rainfall this year, everything had grown and the garden was full of lush greens and yellows.
The tulips in the front garden were a lovely surprise, and even impressed the police who came to check on us. We couldn’t go into the front garden, but could view them from the window, and that was enough.
Unfortunately we missed the lovely apple tree blossoms, but here is a photo from last year…at almost the same time.
Canberra has an abundance of busy birds visiting gardens in spring, and our plum tree attracts various parrot families at this time of the year.. The plum tree is near the house, and so it is easy to take photos and watch them all day ……instead of looking up exercise programs, and/or de-cluttering the cabin.
On rainy days the cockatoos fly in to check on the almond tree….they love almonds, especially if the shells have been softened by rain.
I have read that cockatoos spread out their crests when they are happy, active, annoyed, or purposefully going somewhere. Perhaps active and happy in this photo.
While we were weeding all through the garden (Paul did 90% and I did 10%) I listened to a podcast on gardens, gardening and our mental health.
Geraldine Doogue on Radio National was interviewing Sue Stuart Smith, the author of a new book called The Well Gardened Mind. As a psychiatrist the author was interested in the connection between gardening and mental health. Her grandfather, Ted, had been a P.O.W. during the war, in a camp near Gallipoli. He returned home malnourished and shell-shocked.
His wife took great care of him on his return to England, but he still remained traumatised by his experiences. In 1920 he was able to enrol in a government program, a Horticultural Rehabilitation scheme in Hampshire. This program taught people the full range of horticultural skills, tending the soil, growing vegetables, seasonal changes. Ted became a keen gardener, and lived a long and full life, growing his own vegetables.
Sue Stuart Smith writes about cultivating the land, and the enormous benefit human beings have when connecting with the land. The gardener is drawn into the rhythm of the garden, the structure of the seasons is stabilizing, and we are pulled along by its growth.
The garden doesn’t let you procrastinate for too long, the seeds have to be sown in autumn or spring, the weeds have to be removed!
I haven’t yet read the book, but everything Sue Stuart Smith said in the interview was interesting and so true.
While we were self-isolating we received regular messages from ACT Health to check on any Covid symptoms, but also on our mental health during this period of isolation.
Over the two week period we had a few friendly conversations with the police who visited daily. Each time they mentioned that most people self-isolating in Canberra, are returning from overseas, and have no choice but to quarantine in small rooms in hotels or motels, often with small children.
During our two week of quarantining we had enough living space in our house, and plenty of gardening jobs to fill four weeks rather than two.
One of the young policemen said ”well you’ve got your garden…you’re okay!”
I bet he comes from a family of gardeners!
As well as the garden, the cockatoos provided a bit of every day humour to our lives. This cockatoo doesn’t look impressed with his pick of the crop…
Our garden was very important during this period of isolation, along with the birds, family, friends and neighbours. I will definitely buy Sue Stuart Smith’s book to read further on this interesting topic.
Here is a lovely quote from her interview:
”When we sow a seed, it is an action of hope”
Thank you for taking the time to read my post, and may you have a few rays of hope in your garden today.