In our part of the world, the southern, south west coast of Western Australia, we have shifted into the Second Summer. Bunuru, according to local Noongar traditional wisdom is The Season of Adolescence and February on our modern calendar, is usually the hottest month of the year.
For me though, it has dulled in its heat. The days have been largely overcast, though still dangerous with regards to the intensity of the UV light and still warm enough to encourage the corn to flower and the tomatoes that I had sown late in the season, to flourish and thrive. I made a gamble from my observations of the garden last year and previous autumnal periods, that this years autumn would still be generous enough see the corn and tomatoes through to maturity. So far its paying off and given their progress I think we’ll see it through safely.
This is a good thing. Not just because I had a few disappointments with seeds that didn’t grow early in the season, but because we really need fresh corn seed and the ‘adaptability factor’ to ensue within the seeds so we can improve future crops. I only managed a small crop of Aztec Red Corn and some Popping Corn. All the tomatoes are heritage and we will save the seed now that we are practising the traditional preparatory techniques of skinning and de-seeding tomatoes before consuming.
Next year I hope to plant a larger area of corn to increase the gene pool and give good strong seed. We will sample some of this years harvest when it arrives, but I will also be happy to select the best seeds for storage and growing next year – and to supplement the guinea pig and rabbits diet with some of the corn plants. They are very fond of them. I will continue also my practice of cutting the stalks low and leaving the roots in the earth to break down slowly and feed the soil.
For the indigenous peoples of this area, this time of the year was a time of gathering seafood and coastal produce. I yearn to be successful in catching some of the local small fish. Sand whiting, herring and even squid / calamari.
A friend of mine speculates, from observing similar geographical locations along our coast here, that the local river may have passed by where our house is now situated. There is a local lake and swamp and he speculates that this was once the path of the river flow before it changed its path and direction. It is an interesting thought and given the mountain behind us, quite possible, that the river has altered its direction over the millennia.
I imagine a moment, sometime in the before time, when the river passed by this way and local tribal people would journey along it on their migration to the coast. Stopping and camping along the way to feed on turtles and turtle eggs, river fish and birds eggs. On reaching the coast they would set up camp and collect shellfish and trek up the hill to hunt possum and collect plant materials.
Perhaps at one point these native peoples even stood silently on top of the hill, puzzled by the appearance of a sailing ship just off the shore, beyond the bay. American sealers perhaps, French explorers, maybe even a youthful Charles Darwin exploring the promontory that welcomes seafarers into this large, embracing, natural harbour.
But from within such a reverie, stirred by my friends casual theory, I have also had to stir myself and get to work quickly in the garden to ensure that the second summer doesn’t suck all the moisture from the garden. I have mulched heavily and planted out potted plants into the main garden simply in an effort to get more of them increasing in size for my eventual design of the garden.
Patience and the garden are intertwined. I really have succumbed to them being one and the same. My design is magnificent. Though barriers still stand. Time, finances, growth. It will happen, I know it will.
I moved the rabbits and the guinea pigs onto a new part of the garden after I finally finished the last of the retaining. Once I back filled the soil, sand and green materials I had put aside, the area was mulched with field hay and the hutches placed on top. Everybody in the same spot for ease of feeding and watering during the hotter days ahead. They are happy in their collective. Able to view, smell and hear each other.
We pick small, crisp, juicy apples off our small potted trees. I still dream about the day I will get to plant them in the ground.