When we arrived back at the Food Garden court of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) from our Nursery experience, other volunteers were sprawled along stone walls and seated in make shift places enjoying a lunch break. Occasional birdsong could be heard from the trees. A soft day.
I finished my lunch, grabbed a bin and walked to ‘my’ viola and mustard patch. We all say ‘my’ when referring to gardens we have made changes to in the past. We keep a proprietorial look out for these. I had noticed large dry leaves had been driven by wind and eddied to form deep layers across ‘my’ plants. Some were smothered and needed to see the light of day again. In clearing the area, I filled an entire rubbish bin quickly and duly trotted to the composting bins to offload.
Blog readers might remember last week I picked Kalamata olives, then later tasted some that Coordinator Adam had prepared and stored in oil two years ago. I was smitten. Many volunteers had missed the tasting so yesterday he brought out a new jar and shared its contents.
I was interested to listen to the reaction of others: pleasurable smiles and exclamations indicated the taste and texture met with approval. Again I loved the delicacy of their flavouring and have decided that like a good wine, olives need time to mellow. This means the mass produced pickled delicatessen products we normally eat are insignificant by comparison. It is almost as if they are a different breed of food. I was delighted when one volunteer, who declared a life-long aversion to olives through disliking the taste, tasted one and didn’t mind at all.
Without a specific task to do, I wandered towards the espaliered pear trees. I had admired them from a distance the previous week and figured a closer look would be instructive. It might help me when I prune my espaliered pear tree next year. I observed very few bud protrusions (there is probably a correct name for these) were left compared with mine where I was nervous to remove most. There was only one horizontal branch to the left and right of the main trunk and then all the other leaders were vertical. I am looking out from my home window as I type and see that, in contrast, mine all tend horizontal. Note to self – try the RTBG approach next year.
Did you take note of the clear rich blue sky in the photos above – it was a stunning day to be outdoors and working.
I approached Adam. ‘What would you like me to do?’. The task was to use the back of a leaf rake to smooth the new sawdust paths.With the pressure of foot traffic and because layering the sawdust is not an exact process when it comes to getting levels the same, the new sawdust paths were lumpy, unattractive to look at, and being uneven were not especially comfortable to walk across. I found that raking them to achieve a flatter surface was not easy.
Meanwhile other old paths were still being covered by a couple of other volunteers and this process continued until after 3pm. I stayed with them. Loving it all.There was a time when I shovelled some sawdust from the back of the buggy into a bin ready to fill some thin areas. I used a long handled shovel – a tool not in my home collection. I loved the leverage given by the long handle. Shared the weight of the load and therefore caused less strain on my body. I know, I know, I know – you are thinking sawdust doesn’t weigh much. Certainly by comparison with other materials this is true, however because the platform on the buggy with the sawdust was at my waist height, I was lifting up to my shoulder level before swinging the load down into the bin. Not difficult. Not a challenge. But seeming a smidgin heavier than when shovelling materials across ground level. Probably good for building my core strength.
Towards the end of the afternoon, when we passed through a curved arch in the red brick wall we entered a shady glade.The side limits of a new path were marked, loads more sawdust were dumped and the placement, then levelling process continued. There were four of us in a confined space. If three is a crowd then four is way too many. So I looked around, and under the trees popping through the bark mulch were weeds. In the sun, I pulled weeds until another volunteer called me, ‘It’s time to go. You’ll get locked in’ (not true – the Gardens do not shut until 5pm and it was still mid-afternoon). ‘I will when I have finished this patch’, I responded without looking up. I heard an insistent voice, ‘I’ve got your jacket’. Reluctantly I looked at the few weeds within eyeshot and realised I could pull them next week. They weren’t going anywhere.
‘Thanks’. I took my jacket and we set off at a brisk pace back to the gardening shed. On the bus home I realised that in my rush to leave I had forgotten to remove the rubbish bin and dump the weeds into the compost bins. I pictured the bin beneath the tree in its isolated spot projecting an untidy look to a visitor. In a tone of apologetic embarrassment I phoned the RTBG. I guess the bin is back in its Garden shed waiting to be used by our horde of volunteers next Thursday.
Satisfying. Fulfilling. Rewarding. These are a few words that call me as I think of yesterday’s rich experience, yet again, at the RTBG.