The story continues about my experience at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) last Thursday, with an unusual and unexpected diversion.
I was surprised after our morning tea break and we were back weeding in the orchard, when a visitor with his two boys told me there was a small animal lying on the grass nearby. He wondered if this might be a native animal or a rat. Immediately I thought of a bandicoot and followed them. The animal was small and glossily brown like a native Tasmanian bandicoot but I wasn’t sure. For a few moments I watched the rise and fall of its stomach. The animal was still alive and seemed to be sleeping in full sun on the green lush lawn without any protection. Not usual. Very strange. I wasn’t sure what to do, went off and collected Adam who picked him/her up – so tiny.
The baby bandicoot seemed so comfortable in his hands and went back to sleep. A straw lined bed was made and eventually the bandicoot was settled near the tool shed in a place safe from people or birds. But this didn’t suit the animal. He moved away and stuck his head under leaf litter with his back in full sun.
Adam was sure the bandicoot was ill and dying for an unknown reason. I speculated the animal may have been born mentally defective and had forgotten the need to be hidden away during the day (they are generally nocturnal animals that are rarely seen during the day). By mid-afternoon he had disappeared; I hope he lives another day and grows to become an adult. I am excited for that visitor and his two young boys because they were able to see an animal not normally seen by most. I hope they savour the experience for a long time.
Following our lunch break, all hands set about pruning the camellia sinensis (tea leaf) bushes, prior to pinching out the soft centres of new growth. A couple of weeks ago this had been the process but it was one I hadn’t seen. Adam demonstrated and then, with secateurs we nipped off a few or some centimetres down each stem to where we could leave a node flush with new leaves.
In this way, the plant could stretch out/grow and, each week, give us new ‘tips’ for pinching. I was surprised how many stems on each bush could be pruned. Before long we had filled many containers with prunings. Back near the tool shed we stood at a bench and pinched out the tea leaf tips.
These were poured into a cloth bag and the discards sent for composting.
Adam microwaved the bag and Pam and then Lois had the chance to smush (our word in the absence of a technical term we liked) the tea leaves in the bag (refer process in 2019). Later, the tea leaves were spread onto drying trays.
We will repeat our tea leaf collection each week until we have a year’s supply for our morning tea. Previously I have explained the garden’s produce, that we pick, is taken away for distribution to needy members of the community. Unfortunately most people would not know how to prepare tea leaves for consumption so, in the spirit of waste not want not, we use them ourselves. Meanwhile learning. And how we all love learning!
Last week we removed many weeds from a triangular garden where asparagus and other edibles grow. On this recent Thursday we set about clearing the remainder … but there will always be more to do! Spring has sprung.
During the culling, Neil recognised a wayward Bay Leaf tree trying to get established; being in the wrong place at the wrong time, he pulled it out. I grabbed the tiny plant; because I have never been able to taste the impact of a dry bay leaf in stews I want to find out if I can taste a fresh leaf in my cooking. Time will tell.
By the time I left the Food Garden for the day, and others stayed working, many buggy loads of weeds had been driven to the great composting heap. All that spring growth. Wet. Waiting to decay into ‘almost good enough to eat’ compost that will be returned to the garden beds to help the tomatoes and other summer vegetables thrive. And nature will come full circle.